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Czech Republic, U.S. start talks on missile defense May 10

RIA Novosti

02/05/2007 10:12 WARSAW, May 2 (RIA Novosti) - The Czech Republic will start negotiations on the deployment of an interceptor radar with the United States on May 10, the Czech CTK news agency reported Wednesday.

The U.S. administration officially requested that the Czech government start talks on the deployment of a missile defense radar in January 2007. Although the Czech parliamentary opposition is demanding the issue be put to a referendum, the country's government has refused.

The first round of talks will be held at the Czech Defense Ministry, where the parties will discuss an agreement covering the deployment of the U.S. system in the Czech Republic. The second round, due May 22, will be held at the republic's Foreign Ministry to discuss an agreement on the construction, maintenance, servicing and security of the U.S. missile defense system.

"Further negotiations will be held in the United States," said Zuzana Opletalova, spokesperson for the Czech Foreign Ministry.

In early June, U.S. President George Bush will arrive in Prague to discuss the issue with the Czech authorities. The U.S. would like a final answer on the deployment of the system in the Czech Republic by the yearend.

The construction of the air defense system will cost U.S. taxpayers $260 million and the cost of the deployment is estimated at $550 million, CTK said referring to the U.S. Missile Defense Agency. Czech companies could join the construction and servicing of the radar later.

A survey conducted by Ipsos-Tambor showed that the majority of Czechs oppose the deployment of a U.S. shield in the republic, with 55.8% respondents against and 28.2% for. A total of 52.1% of those against the deployment plans, believe the republic could be a potential U.S. target.

Russia has repeatedly condemned U.S. plans for a missile shield in Europe, warning it could be a "destabilizing factor".

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