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Poland not expecting breakthrough at U.S. missile shield talks

RIA Novosti

07/05/2008 20:27 MOSCOW, May 7 (RIA Novosti) - Polish government officials do not expect a breakthrough during an ongoing round of missile shield negotiations with the U.S., Poland's IAR news agency said on Wednesday.

A U.S. delegation arrived in Warsaw on Tuesday ahead of Wednesday's talks with an official proposal for modernizing Poland's armed forces in exchange for the deployment of 10 interceptor missiles on Polish territory.

Polish Deputy Foreign Minister Witold Wascykowski was quoted as saying the current round would become "a serious step forward," but he did not expect a breakthrough.

The country's defense minister, Bogdan Klich, said negotiations might not be over before U.S. President George W. Bush's term in office runs out.

"Life does not end with the end of Bush's presidential term. After Bush, there will be another U.S. president, and we will be able to negotiate for a long time yet," he said.

Washington is hoping to reach an agreement with Poland before President George W. Bush leaves office in January 2009.

Polish Deputy Prime Minister Grzegorz Schetyna, who is also Poland's interior minister, said on Tuesday the U.S. must provide Warsaw with "solid security guarantees" before Poland could agree on the deployment of a missile base on its soil.

Poland is also insisting on the modernization of its armed forces, primarily its Air Force, with funds to be provided by Washington. However, the Bush administration has said that ongoing modernization negotiations are not part of a deal on the missile defense plan, but are proceeding independently, albeit simultaneously.

According to media reports, Poland considers the $20 million that the U.S. has pledged in financial assistance insufficient, but is prepared to hold further negotiations.

On Saturday, a high ranking U.S. administration official said that should negotiations with Poland fail, the United States would consider other options for deploying a missile defense system.

However, Jerzy Szmajdzinki, vice speaker of the Polish parliament from the Union of Democratic Leftist Forces and a former national defense minister, said on Monday that if the U.S. were to scrap its missile defense plans for Poland, "no one would be too upset."

"The Union of Democratic Leftist Forces would be happy if that happened," he said.

The Pentagon's missile shield deployment plans continue to be a major bone of contention in relations between the U.S. and Russia, which considers the project a threat to its national security. Washington has proposed a range of measures to ease Russian concerns.

However, Russia is insisting on the permanent deployment of Russian personnel at the proposed facilities in Poland and the Czech Republic. An agreement has yet to be reached on the issue.

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