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Poland says U.S. missile base construction may start in 2008

RIA Novosti

27/06/2007 16:50

WARSAW, June 27 (RIA Novosti) - The construction of a base for U.S. interceptor missiles in Poland could begin in February 2008, a Polish deputy foreign minister said Wednesday during talks in Washington.

"If we reach an agreement in September this year, then we could start the construction of missile silos in February next year," Polish media quoted Witold Waszczykowski as saying.

The Polish diplomat is currently in Washington attending a new round of talks on the proposed construction of a U.S. missile base in Poland. Official talks between the United States and its ally Poland began in Warsaw on May 24.

The U.S. proposed in January to deploy 10 interceptor missiles in Poland and a missile defense radar in the Czech Republic as part of its missile shield aimed at countering possible threats from "rogue states" such as Iran and North Korea.

Russia, infuriated by the idea of a U.S. missile shield on the territories of its former ally states, has repeatedly condemned the plan, claiming that it could be a "destabilizing factor" and threaten Russia's national security. Moscow warned the West that "appropriate measures" would be taken in response.

However, the Polish prime minister said February 20 that the deployment of a U.S. anti-missile base in the country would guarantee that Poland, a former Soviet ally, 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.

Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin proposed earlier in June that the U.S. use a powerful Gabala radar station Russia leases from the Caucasus state to monitor possible attacks from Iran and North Korea instead of opening installations in Central Europe.

Waszczykowski said Wednesday it was a well-calculated move aimed at blocking or freezing the discussions, although he added that Poland was not opposing separate U.S.-Russian talks on the Gabala radar while Washington and Warsaw continued discussions on the deployment of 10 interceptor missiles in Poland.

"The Americans confirmed today that we will receive data gathered by the radar in the Czech Republic," the diplomat said. "We were also assured [by the U.S.] that Poland will be given the chance to participate in the programming phase of a missile launch in case of an attack."

According to Waszczykowski, a group of U.S. experts will arrive in Warsaw sometime in July or August to hold consultations on technical aspects of the U.S. missile defense proposal in preparation for further talks on the agreement in September.

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