A deal to base part of Washington’s controversial missile defence system in the Czech Republic has been signed in Prague, by Condoleezza Rice (photo), US Secretary of State.
The deal allows a tracking radar base to be set up, though the plans remain unpopular in the Czech Republic. But about another part of the deal, housing other parts of the system in Poland, the US have also failed to reach an agreement.
Earlier, she had held constructive talks with Poland’s foreign minister, said Ms Rice, though she declined to predict whether the US and Poland would reach an agreement.
“We have told them what we can do… There are still some issues, so I can’t say for certain what the trajectory is, but it was a constructive meeting”, she said after talks on Monday with Radek Sikorski in Washington.
The US wants both sites to be in operation by about 2012. The missile defence system would include 10 interceptor missiles in Poland and the tracking radar system in the Czech Republic.
But a second deal, concerning the status of US soldiers at the Czech base, has not been agreed.
The plans have strongly been criticised by Czech opposition parties, who are calling for a national referendum.
More than 100 000 people have signed a petition against the Czech base, said Jan Majicek, of the No Bases Initiative.
Arguing that it would pose a threat to its security, Russia is strongly against the missile defence system. Moscow has threatened to aim its own missiles at any eventual base in Poland or the Czech Republic.
Hours after the deal the US signed the deal, Russia’s foreign ministry has said that his country will be forced to react if a US-Czech agreement over a missile defence shield is ratified. He said Russia would respond “not with diplomatic, but with military-technical methods”.
To Moscow, siting the system near its borders could weaken its own defence.