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Poland welcomes U.S. missile battery as key to national security

RIA Novosti

20:2326/05/2010 MORAG (Poland), May 26 (RIA Novosti) - The stationing of U.S. Patriots missiles on Polish soil is an important step in strengthening Poland's security, the country's defense minister said on Wednesday.

Bogdan Klich officially welcomed the U.S. Patriot missile battery and around 100 U.S. troops to their base in the northern town of Morag.

The ceremony was attended by U.S. Ambassador to Poland Lee Feinstein and director of U.S. Army logistics operations in Europe, Brigadier General Mark Bellini.

Klich said the deployment of U.S. missiles would go a long way "in strengthening the strategic nature of relations between the United States and Poland."

Reinforced air defense was Poland's condition on its participation in the U.S. central European missile defense program, subsequently scrapped by Barack Obama last September.

The United States opened a temporary military base near the northern Polish town of Morag, 80 km (50 miles) from the Russian border under the Supplemental Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) signed in February.

For two years, U.S. troops will be deployed at the base for about one month in three to train Polish forces, with the base to become permanent from 2012.

The move has brought a strong reaction from Moscow, which is particularly displeased by its proximity to Russia's exclave of Kaliningrad on the Baltic Sea.

Russia has suggested the base be moved away from the borders, and the Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday that the deployment did not enhance regional security and cooperation.

A senior Russian lawmaker said the "Patriot issue" would be discussed at a meeting on Thursday of Polish and Russian MPs in Warsaw.

The SOFA agreement was signed on December 11, 2009, in Warsaw by the U.S. deputy secretary of state for arms control and international security and the Polish deputy defense minister.

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