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Polish Leader Fires Missile-Shield Negotiator With US

Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk on Monday removed his country's top negotiator in missile-shield talks with the US, highlighting political infighting over the stalled project.

Polish President Donald Tusk

Polish President Donald Tusk has further complicated US missile shield talks

Hours before Tusk signed Witold Waszczykowski's dimissal note, a magazine quoted the negotiator as saying Tusk was driven by domestic politics when he rejected the latest US offer last month.

Tusk said Monday he was "unsatisfied" with how Waszczykowski led negotiations on the US proposal to station 10 interceptor missiles on Polish soil as part of the missile defense system.

In two days, Tusk said, Poland will continue its talks with Washington, and will strive to ensure that nobody takes part who'll "weaken Poland's position."

Tusk added that Waszczykowski's comments to the weekly could only make negotiations more difficult for Poland.

"I will expect loyalty today and in the future -- in every situation but especially in situations as important as Poland's safety -- from every government worker," Tusk said at a press conference. "Not everyone passes this test of loyalty, as it appears."

Domestic politics at heart of decision: Waszczykowski

In the interview with Newsweek's Polish edition, Waszczykowski accused Tusk and Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski of balking at US plans because they wanted to keep Polish President Lech Kaczynski from getting credit for any agreement on a missile shield.

Finalizing negotiations with the US wouldn't be politically advantageous to Tusk's government, Waszczykowski told Newsweek, because signing a deal would have come too soon after Kaczynski's interventions in the talks.

The president would then get all the credit, Waszczykowski added.

"I got the impression that political interests were more important than the safety of the nation," Waszczykowski said. "During talks among Donald Tusk, Radoslaw Sikorski and Minister Slawomir Nowak there were opinions that a project is unacceptable if it could be seen in public opinion as the president's success."

Waszczykowski also charged that Tusk was giving in to public opinion in Poland, where a majority opposes the US plans.

He said the US offer is unlikely to "radically improve," and Poland should sign the deal now. The new US president will take office in January and will likely concern himself with the Middle East and Russia, not Poland's missile shield.

Tusk's government has sought military aid as part of the bargain for basing the interceptors in Poland.

The Bush administration has already signed a deal with the Czech government on hosting a radar base, the other part of a missile defense system to be based in the two ex-communist countries.

Russia has strongly opposed the US project, which Washington says would be targeted against ballistic missile threats from "rogue states" such as Iran -- not Russia.

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