Anti-Bush protests planned in Prague

Protests are planned in Prague ahead of the U.S. President's visit. The U.S proposals to build a radar base in the Czech Republic have provoked much opposition.

George W. Bush is coming to Prague to make a key-note address at an international conference on democracy and security. Discussions will focus on deployment of a radar facility in the Czech Republic and a missile base in Poland as a part of the American missile shield.

The first round of Czech-U.S. talks on the radar base was completed in May. The talks are to last several months. The U.S. expects the Czechs to give a clear final answer on the base after January 1, 2008.

Moscow has been strongly opposed to the U.S. plans, saying they would threaten Russia's security and destroy the strategic balance of forces in Europe.

“We hope that our U.S. partners will treat our arguments seriously. Our arguments clearly show that there is no use in defending oneself from non-existent threats. It is better to resume work within the framework of the Russia-NATO Council on the creation of a theatre missile defence,” Sergey Lavrov, Russian Foreign Minister, said.

According to the Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek, Moscow is misleading the public about the danger of U.S. intentions to build its anti-missile defence system in Europe.

Many protesters voiced concern over the Russian response and fear the radar base could be targeted in a conflict with Iran or North Korea. Meanwhile, the U.S. says the anti-missile system is to be linked with NATO so that all allies are protected.

But almost every public survey conducted in recent months has shown around 60% of Czechs opposed to the radar base with many people citing the need not to ruffle Russian feathers.

Anti-Bush activists have permission for demonstrations on both Monday and Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Russia has conducted a trial of a new cruise missile to be used as part of the “Iskander M” system. The test was carried out at the Plesetsk launch pad on May 29. Russian military sources said the missile successfully struck its target on the far eastern Kamchatka peninsula. Russia's First Deputy Prime Minister, Sergey Ivanov, said all indications are that the test was a success. “We have objective information from measuring-equipment, including photos, indicating the test was successful. The missile hit only one metre from the target spot. This is a good result, considering the fact this was the first, preliminary test of the missile,” he stated.