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28 Feb, 2008 03:51

U.S. and Czechs close to missile deal

Environmental issues appear to be the only obstacle to America using Czech soil for part of its planned anti-missile radar in Eastern Europe. Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek and George Bush have hinted about a deal soon during a meeting in Washington

While top officials were playing word games a crowd gathered in front of the White House in protest against the plans.

For over a year, the United States has been pushing for a missile defence shield, which it claims will provide protection against rogue states such as Iran and North Korea.

But Russia says the move threatens its national security.

Under the plan, the United States will install parts of its missile defence shield in the Czech Republic and Poland.

“Neither the Czech Republic nor Poland want to say no to the U.S. but they also don't want to say yes. So, it's what we call slow-rolling. They are talking about it and they are indicating they might be able to get a deal,” says Joe Cirincione, Senior Fellow from the Carnegie Endowment of International Peace.

But Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek, strongly disagreed with the statement.

“I think this is a wishfull thinking. For me the presence of Americans in the Czech Republic is a guarantee of security for the whole region even if there's only one American soldier it's already  a guarantee,” he said.

The Czech Republic has been in favour of the project from the start.

Poland, however, has been having second thoughts since a new government took office in November.

“There are some difficulties. The negotiations are going on. Poland wants a lot from the United States for hosting a site. The United States wants to give Poland everything it wants. It is just the nature of negotiations,” believes Riki Ellison from Warsaw-based Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance.

The Czech delegation says it would like to wait for Poland to approve the plan before making any moves. Poland, meanwhile, says it's been waiting on the Washington meeting to influence its decision.