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U.S. Defense Secretary Gates to discuss missile shield in Poland

RIA Novosti

19/04/2007 16:39 WARSAW, April 19 (RIA Novosti) - U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates will visit Warsaw next week to discuss the placement of elements of the U.S. missile defense system in Poland, a Polish news agency said Thursday.

The visit by the U.S. official, which will include a discussion of Poland's participation in operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, does not mark the start of official talks between the United States and Poland on the issue, the PAP news agency said.

In January, the U.S. announced plans to deploy elements of its missile defense system in the Czech Republic and Poland to counter possible attacks from Iran or North Korea, whose nuclear programs have provoked serious international concerns.

On Wednesday, the U.S. administration disclosed the technical parameters of a missile defense system to be deployed in Poland and the Czech Republic.

It said a total of 10 interceptor missiles in underground silos would be located at the facility in Poland. The interceptor base will require facilities for electronic equipment for secure communications, missile assembly, storage, maintenance and security.

The State Department said the ballistic missile defense interceptors that would be installed would be for purely defensive purposes and would have no offensive capability.

"They carry no explosive warheads of any type, relying instead on their kinetic energy alone to collide with and destroy incoming warheads. Silos constructed for deployment of defensive interceptors are substantially smaller than those used for offensive missiles. Any conversion would require extensive modifications, thus precluding the possibility of converting the interceptor silos for use by offensive missile," it said.

Polish Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski said in late February that the deployment of U.S. missile defense elements would guarantee that his country would not fall under Russia's influence at least in the next decades.

Russia, which has been anxious about NATO bases that have appeared in former Communist-bloc countries and ex-Soviet republics, has blasted the plans to deploy anti-missile systems in Central Europe as a national security threat and a destabilizing factor for Europe.

But Lt. Gen. Henry Obering, head of the U.S. Missile Defense Agency, said Tuesday that in order to ease the Kremlin's concerns, Washington was ready to allow Russian experts to inspect the site likely to be placed in Poland to show that it poses no threat to Moscow.

Russian and U.S. officials are to discuss missile defense plans for Central Europe next week when the U.S. Defense Secretary visits Moscow, while U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice might visit Russia in May.

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