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Poland rejects U.S. missile shield terms, but ready for dialogue

RIA Novosti

04/07/2008 21:20 (Recasts, adds Tusk quotes in paras 3, 4, 6, 8, Kosachyov quote in para 10)

WARSAW, July 4 (RIA Novosti) - Poland's prime minister said on Friday his country is not satisfied with the terms offered by the U.S. for the deployment of a missile defense base on its soil, but is ready for further dialogue.

In the long-running negotiations with the U.S., Warsaw has been pushing Washington to provide billions of dollars of investment in Poland's air defenses in exchange for allowing the deployment of interceptor missiles.

Donald Tusk told reporters: "We need firm guarantees from Washington that the deployment of a missile defense base will enhance Poland's security," but that on this issue "we did not achieve a result that would be satisfactory to Poland."

"We are ready to cooperate but we are waiting for an answer from the American side," he said.

The Polish missile base would be linked to a radar tracking system in the Czech Republic for which a deal is likely to be signed later this month. Russia vehemently opposes the plans, rejecting Washington's line that they would defend against a potential Iranian strike, and considers them a national security threat.

In an apparent reference to Russia's threat to target its missiles at U.S. facilities in Europe, Tusk said: "The fact that the installation would be built on Polish territory increases certain risks and threats for Poland."

He said the U.S. must agree to permanently deploying ground-to-air missiles in Poland to give the country the security guarantees it needs.

"Air defense elements that would specifically defend Polish territory are absolutely essential for Poland," he said.

Tusk insisted that money is not the root of the dispute with the U.S. However, a Russian lawmaker said after the news conference that Warsaw is pushing for a level of U.S. funding to re-equip the national air defense system that is far above the current offer.

The U.S. offer "is not enough for the Poles. So I think that here money is playing the main role, and not the overall impact on the security atmosphere in Europe," Konstantin Kosachyov, ñhairman of the State Duma Foreign Affairs Committee, said on the Russia Today news channel.

On Thursday evening Tusk discussed the issue with U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney, but the sides failed to overcome disagreements. The discussion took place after Polish and U.S. officials had said the two-day talks in Washington had resulted in a tentative agreement on the deployment of 10 interceptor missiles in Poland.

The U.S. currently gives Poland $27 million per year in military funding, the most any European ally receives, and the Bush administration earlier this year offered an extra $20 million per year.

Washington's negotiations with the Czech Republic have been progressing more smoothly. The Czech government has agreed to the plan in general, but parliament still needs to approve the deal.

Earlier this week, the United States and ex-Soviet Lithuania, a European Union and NATO member since 2004, admitted holding talks on the possible deployment of the missile interceptor base in the Baltic state if the U.S. deal with Poland falls through.



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