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Europe

US, Poland sign missile shield deal during Clinton visit

Poland and the US on Saturday signed an agreement for a key missile base during a visit to Poland by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. She stressed the controversial deal 'is not directed at Russia.'

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton with Polish foreign minister Radoslaw Sikorski

Clinton with her Polish counterpart Sikorski

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Saturday oversaw the signing of the key missile base agreement as part of a revamped version of the controversial missile defense shield plan.

The amendment enables the establishment of a permanent US missile base on Polish soil. The controversial plan has been heavily criticized by Russia, with Moscow concerned that the policy is aimed at its military arsenal.

"This is a purely defensive system," Clinton told reporters. "It is not directed at Russia. It does not threaten Russia."

Poland and the US say the shield is designed to ward off the threat of missile attacks aimed at Poland and the rest of Europe, especially the possibility of a ballistic missile strike stemming from Iran.

The amendment was signed by Deputy Foreign Minister Jacek Nader and Lee Feinstein, the US ambassador to Poland. Clinton and her Polish counterpart Radoslaw Sikorski attended the signing.

Poland had agreed with the previous US adminstration led by George Bush to host a permanent US military base and missiles at a disused airstrip near the Baltic Sea coast.

But US President Barack Obama decided last year to abandon the Bush-era plan to set up a major defence system in Poland and the Czech Republic. The amendment to the agreement takes into account changes brought in by President Barack Obama.

Other engagements

Clinton also attended an international conference in Krakow promoting democracy and human rights.

The meeting, attended by some 70 foreign delegations, marked the tenth anniversary of the founding of the international 'Community of Democracies' organization.

The current political situations in eight nations, including Iran, Haiti and North Korea, were on the agenda.

Clinton, in the event's keynote speech, said the US joined Poland in mourning the victims of the plane crash in April that killed President Lech Kaczynski and 95 others.

Clinton arrived in Poland from Ukraine, which was her first port of call on a tour of eastern European countries. She will later visit Azerbaijan, Armenia and Georgia.

Author: Mark Hallam (AFP/AP/dpa)
Editor: Sonia Phalnikar

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