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Poland has the right to decide on U.S. missile base - official

RIA Novosti

25/10/2007 16:56 (Adds Polko's quotes, details in paras 9-11)

WARSAW, October 25 (RIA Novosti) - Poland has a sovereign right to allow the United States to deploy elements of its missile shield in the country, the Polish national security chief said Thursday.

Washington is planning to deploy 10 missile interceptors in Poland and a radar in the Czech Republic as part of its European missile shield, despite Russia's objections based on concerns over its national security.

"We do respect Russia's opinion, but being a sovereign state, a member of NATO and the EU, we reserve the right to decide on our issues of national security," said Major General Roman Polko, acting chief of Poland's Bureau of National Security.

The first U.S. missile interceptor could be put on combat duty in Poland as early as in 2011, and the base may become fully operational by 2013.

"From our point of view, it is an important element of countering a WMD threat," Polko told a news conference in Warsaw.

"Bases in Poland and the Czech Republic are part of the U.S. missile defense program, which will serve strictly defensive purposes and will not be aimed at any country," he said.

Washington insists broader missile defense capability is needed to counter possible strikes from rogue states like North Korea and Iran, but Russia says new missile bases in Europe will be a threat to its national security and will undermine the global strategic balance.

Polko said Warsaw was hoping to resolve the dispute with Moscow over the U.S. missile base through constructive negotiations.

"I am certain that we will make a breakthrough in this [missile defense] respect and will overcome a stereotype that has nothing to do with reality, meaning that this [missile ] shield is being set up for offensive purposes," the Polish general said.

He reiterated that Poland had never planned any military confrontation with Russia.

"We simply want a normal life and to function normally," Polko said.

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