Czech MPs delay U.S. shield deal debate until Obama's inauguration
18/11/2008 17:40 MOSCOW, November 18 (RIA Novosti) - The Czech parliament will not resume consideration of a Czech-U.S. missile defense treaty until Barack Obama officially assumes the U.S. presidency, the speaker of the lower house said on Tuesday.
During his meeting with Boris Gryzlov, speaker of the Russian lower house of parliament, Miloslav Vlcek said the House of Deputies had postponed consideration of the agreement "until after a new U.S. presidential administration is appointed."
Obama will be inaugurated as the 44th U.S. president on January 20.
The lower house of the Czech parliament began discussions on the ratification of a Czech-U.S. missile defense treaty and an agreement on the status of foreign forces in late October.
The agreement to station a U.S. radar in the Czech Republic was signed on July 8 by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg.
On September 19, Defense Minister Vlasta Parkanova and U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates signed the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA). The pact governs the deployment of U.S. military personnel at the radar station.
Vlcek earlier said however that the missile defense agreement could be "passed by a margin of one or two votes, if at all," adding that "two-thirds of the country's citizens object to the placement of a U.S. radar station on its soil."
The radar is part of a planned missile shield system that would also include the deployment of 10 interceptor missiles in Poland. The U.S. says it needs the Central European shield to protect against attacks by "rogue states" such as Iran.
Gen. Henry Obering, director of the Missile Defense Agency, has said that the United States expects its missile-defense base in Poland to become fully operational in late 2011 or early 2012.
The Polish government submitted to parliament for ratification the U.S. missile shield deal on November 7.
The plans are fiercely opposed by Russia, which sees the missile shield as a threat to its national security and the international system of nuclear deterrence.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said in early November that Russia would deploy precision-guided short-range Iskander missile systems in its western Kaliningrad exclave "to neutralize, if necessary, the anti-ballistic missile system in Europe." Kaliningrad borders Poland and Lithuania, both NATO member states.
However, the Russian leader said in an interview with France's Figaro newspaper published on Thursday that, "We could reconsider this response if the new U.S. administration is ready to once again review and analyze all the consequences of its decisions to deploy the missiles and radar facilities."
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