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U.S. missile shield talks could take several years - Polish FM

RIA Novosti

26/02/2007 13:57 YEREVAN, February 26 (RIA Novosti) - Future talks on the deployment of a U.S. missile defense base in Poland could take several years, Poland's foreign minister said Monday.

In January, the United States approached Poland and the Czech Republic, former Central European Soviet allies and now members of the European Union and NATO, with a request to host elements of the missile defense system.

Washington plans to build a radar installation in the Czech Republic and a missile interceptor base in Poland in the next five years.

"The United States has proposed building a missile defense base on our territory, but the negotiating process could last several years, because various technical, legislative and other issues are involved," said Anna Fotyga, who is currently on a three-day visit to Armenia.

Poland formally agreed last Friday to start detailed negotiations with the U.S. on the deployment of parts of the missile shield on its territory.

"All I can say with certainty is that during the discussions, we will prioritize Poland's security, and then the security of Europe and the world," Fotyga said.

Elzbieta Jakubiak, head of the Polish presidential administration said Saturday that President Lech Kaczynski would meet with members of Polands's Security Council to discuss the issue of the U.S. missile shield not earlier than March 5.

The U.S. insists that the European missile shield is meant to counter possible attacks from Iran or North Korea, but Moscow strongly opposes the deployment of a missile shield in its former backyard in Central Europe, describing the plans as a threat to Russian national security.

Russia's top military officials earlier issued strong warnings to the U.S. regarding its plans to deploy elements of its anti-missile defense system in Europe.

The chief of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces, Yury Baluyevsky, said in an interview with the daily Rossiiskaya Gazeta that the unilateral U.S. actions could damage the balance of power in Europe and undermine Russia's nuclear deterrence.

"Knowing the potential technical characteristics of fire support and weapons systems, we can confirm that despite numerous assurances that these systems are not targeted at Russia, they could still affect our deterrence capability under certain circumstances," the general said.

Baluyevsky reiterated that Russia is strictly adhering to its nuclear disarmament obligations, while the U.S. is pressing forward with plans to base elements of a missile shield in Europe, which coincides with NATO expansion closer to Russian borders.

The Russian military chief earlier said that in response to U.S. missile deployment plans, Moscow might pull out of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) which eliminated nuclear and conventional ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges of 500 to 5,500 kilometers (300 to 3,400 miles).

Following his remarks, Gen. Nikolai Solovtsov, commander of Russia's Strategic Missile Forces, said the SMF would be able to track elements of the U.S. missile defense system if deployed in Central Europe.

"If the governments of Poland and the Czech Republic make such a decision, the Strategic Missile Forces will be able to target these systems," he said.

However, the Polish prime minister said February 20 that the deployment of a U.S. anti-missile base in the country would guarantee that Warsaw would no longer be under Russia's sphere of influence.

"We are talking about the status of Poland and about Russia's hopes that Poland will once again come under its [Moscow's] sphere of influence," Jaroslaw Kaczynski said.

The premier said such a situation could involve exercising influence on Poland, exerting direct pressure on it, or creating a situation in which dealing with Moscow becomes Poland's only recourse.

"But following the deployment of a missile defense base here, the chances of such undue influence arising will be greatly reduced for at least several decades," Kaczynsky said.

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