Czech-U.S. Anti-missile Radar Deal Almost Done

Saturday, 15 Dec 2007 08:28 AM

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Czech and US negotiators Friday said they had made progress in talks aimed at a deal over the siting of part of a US anti-missile defence shield in the Czech Republic -- but refused to set a target for their completion.

"I think we are making very good progress I do not think we will need a tremendously large number of future (negotiating) rounds if we continue to make the progress we have made so far," commented US Assistant Secretary of State John Rood in a joint news conference with Czech Deputy Foreign Minister Tomas Pojar.

"The finish line is certainly within view but predicting exactly when we will reach those dates is something I have cautiously avoided so far," he added.

A final deal looks possible "within a few small months, but we do not rule out that it could be within a few weeks," Pojar said, adding that the Czech side was still studying similar deals between the US and other countries to "get the best possible result."

Pojar said six of the 18 negotiating chapters being discussed had been closed and another three or four were close to being sealed. "On about half of the text there is no accord," he added.

Progress in the latest talks had been made on "safety aspects" such as the provision of emergency flights to the base and the obligations of Czech authorities to police a security zone around it, Rood added.

The proposed Czech radar would be twinned with 10 interceptor missiles in neighbouring Poland which could counter the threat of an attack from "rogue" states, such as Iran, according to Washington.

Rood said Friday that the US still holds the view that "the missile threat from Iran and similar countries is real and growing and continues to evolve." Iran was continuing its missile development programme. "It remains a concern to the United States and poses a threat to our NATO allies," he added.

As well as two general agreements setting out the framework for the radar's operation and the rules governing the foreign base, a third agreement allowing Czech firms and businesses to take part in the general anti-missile development is also being discussed, Pojar said.

Czech opposition to the US radar has however climbed to 68 percent according to a survey by the CVVM institute published this week, compared with 65 percent in June. A referendum on whether to host the base is wanted by 73 percent of the population according to the same survey.

The centre-right government in power since the start of the year has resolutely refused a referendum saying lawmakers in parliament should approve the project.

Copyright AFP

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