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23 Feb, 2008 15:04

Czechs dubious about U.S. anti-missile radar plans

The U.S. anti-missile radar base is still a hot topic in Eastern Europe. Negotiations between Czech and U.S. Government officials are ongoing, but so too are the protests from ordinary Czech citizens.

The Czech government has chosen Brdy forest as the location of the U.S. radar base. But locals say it's too close for comfort. So they're calling for Brdy forest and its military zone to be declared a world heritage site in a bid to block U.S. plans.

An overwhelming number of residents in the 60 surrounding villages oppose the radar base.

In the village of Jince locals are worried about the radar's impact on their lives. and they're not convinced they will benefit from an American military presence here.

Washington says its radar system will protect the West from potential missile attacks by rogue states like Iran.

But local mayor Josef Hala says he doesn't want to become a pawn in America's game.

“If U.S. radar is based here, then our country will become a prime target for the Iranians. We will be the first ones attacked. Why should we put ourselves at risk?” wonders Josef Hala, Mayor of Jince.

Russia also fiercely opposes the base, saying that positioning the U.S. missile system so close to Russian soil would be a threat to national security.

Despite a wave of protests, the Czech government is pressing on in its negotiations with Washington.

However, they have still to convince a highly sceptical population of the virtues of missile defence.

Neighbouring Poland wants satisfactory deal

The proposed US missile defence shield continues to be a controversial issue in Poland as well.

The Polish Defence Minister Bogdan Klich says there will be no agreement on the shield unless America agrees to help modernise the Polish military. He is quoted in an interview with the daily newspaper “Polska”.

Poland is seeking American contribution towards upgrading its ageing military.

America wants to place ten missile-defence interceptors in Poland as part of a system it says is necessary to protect the U.S. and its allies.