Czech upper house votes in favor of U.S. missile shield
The bill was backed by 49 out of 81 lawmakers.
An agreement to station a U.S. radar in the Czech Republic was signed on July 8 by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg.
On September 19, Defense Minister Vlasta Parkanova and U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates signed the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA). The pact governs the deployment of U.S. military personnel at the radar station.
However, the agreements require ratification from both houses of the Czech parliament and the president. The lower house of the Czech parliament, which started debates on the issue on October 29, has decided to postpone its vote until U.S. president-elect Barack Obama is inaugurated.
Some political analysts believe that the ratification process could continue until spring next year.
The United States intends to deploy a missile defense radar in the Czech Republic and 10 interceptor missiles in Poland. Washington has said the shield is needed to protect against attacks from "rogue states" such as Iran. Russia has opposed the U.S. plans, saying they destroy the strategic balance of forces in Europe and threaten Russia's security.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev earlier threatened to deploy Iskander-M short-range missiles in the country's Kaliningrad exclave, which borders Poland, in response to the U.S. missile defense system.
After Barack Obama's U.S. presidential election victory, one of his foreign policy advisers said the president-elect was not committed to the missile shield, and would only continue with the project if its effectiveness was proven.