Poland Denies US Reports on Missile Defense Shield Deal | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 03.07.2008
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Poland Denies US Reports on Missile Defense Shield Deal

Negotiations between Poland and the United States over the location of the proposed missile defense shield will continue, despite reports suggesting an agreement had already been reached.

Payload launch missile used in national missile defense test

The United States wants to base part of its missile defense system in Poland

After a senior US State Department official stated on Wednesday, July 2, that a "tentative agreement" had been reached after two days of talks between Polish and US officials, Polish Defense Minister Bogdan Klich revealed that no consensus has been reached on plans to station the US missile shield in Poland.

"The negotiations have not ended -- another round of talks was concluded -- for the time being we are not at the finish line," Klich told Poland's private Radio Zet. "We completed an important, a significant, round of talks two days ago but the finish line of talks is still ahead of us," he said, adding that "July is a long month."

Daniel Fried, the Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs and a former ambassador to Poland, told reporters that the last round of talks between the US and Poland had made real progress but refused to confirm that an agreement had been reached.

The United States wants to base 10 interceptor missiles on the territory of the ex-communist NATO member and a radar facility in the neighboring Czech Republic to ward off potential attacks by so-called "rogue" states, notably Iran.

A deal under which the Czech Republic would house the missile shield's radar base was concluded in April.

Lithuania alternative seen as a bargaining chip

Passenger car rides around a newly built NATO air-defense radar base near Nepolisy, some 85 kilometers (53 miles) east from Prague, Czech Republic

The Czech Republic will host radar systems

The proposed missile shield system has angered Russia, which fears it may actually be one of the countries in the cross-hairs, while public opinion in Poland and the Czech Republic is broadly opposed to the defensive system.

Talks between Poland and the United States over the missile shield began in May last year but after initial progress the negotiations have dragged over Poland's demands for substantial US aid to modernize its armed forces in return for its cooperation.

The impasse has allegedly led the US to consider Poland's northern neighbor Lithuania but Bogdan Klich said such reports were simply pressure tactics during the negotiations with Poland.

"In my opinion this was a pressure tactic used by the US on Poland and it would not at all be so easy for the Americans to locate the missile shield in Lithuania ... because of stronger protests by Russia against this location instead of Poland," Klich said. "The Americans are endeavoring to maintain good relations with Russia."

Senior officials in Lithuania, like Poland a member of the European Union and NATO, have flatly denied talks were underway with Washington.

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