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Poland, U.S. to discuss missile defense in Washington

RIA Novosti

16/07/2007 12:14 WASHINGTON, July 16 (RIA Novosti) - Polish President Lech Kaczynski and U.S. President George W. Bush will discuss Monday plans to build a U.S. missile defense base in Poland, the White House press service said.

U.S. plans to place elements of its missile shield in Poland and the Czech Republic have become one of the main issues of contention in relations between Russia and the United States, bringing them recently to their lowest point since the Cold War.

Russian President Vladimir Putin declared over the weekend that Russia would suspend its participation in the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE Treaty) in an apparent response to U.S. actions that angered Moscow.

Poland, as well as other NATO countries, said it was "astonished" by Russia's moratorium on the treaty, but reaffirmed its readiness to cooperate with the U.S. on missile shield plans.

Polish Deputy Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski said Monday that the United States may start building a missile base in Poland as early as February 2008.

"If by autumn this year we reach a final agreement with the U.S. and if Congress votes in favor of financing the whole program, the work may begin as soon as in February next year," Waszczykowski said in an interview with Novye Izvestia, a Russian daily newspaper.

The Polish president is scheduled to visit the Vandenberg Air Force base, about 130 miles (209 kilometers) northwest of Los Angeles, where two missile silos and the Ground-Based Midcourse Defense Office are located.

The U.S. national missile defense system also deploys 15 missile interceptors at Fort Greeley, Alaska.

If the talks between Warsaw and Washington are successful, the U.S. is planning to place 10 missile interceptors in Poland by 2013, with the first missile complex put on combat duty as early as in 2011.

U.S. plans to deploy elements of the missile shield in Central Europe are expected to cost $1.6 billion over the next five years.

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