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US official: Missile deal with Czech Republic, Poland closer - Summary Posted : Thu, 21 Feb 2008 18:49:04 GMT Author : DPA

Budapest - The United States is getting closer to reaching a deal with the Czech Republic and Poland over controversial plans to site elements of a missile defence system in the former Soviet satellites, a key US official said Thursday. "We have made significant progress over the last few weeks in negotiations with the countries," Acting Undersecretary for Arms Control and International Security John Rood told journalists in Budapest.

"There are no major issues outstanding that are not surmountable," he said.

Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk and Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek are due in Washington for talks over the next few weeks, and Rood said the missile defence system would be on the agenda.

Rood was heading up a US delegation in the seventh of a series of sometimes-stormy talks with Russia on the plans, which Moscow claims could eventually threaten its own security.

The US claims that the mooted missile-defence system, which is expected to see a radar site in the Czech Republic and a launch site in Poland, is aimed at a possible threat from states such as Iran and North Korea.

Rood emphasized that recent attempts by Iran to develop medium- range ballistic missiles only further highlighted the importance of a missile shield in Europe.

"One of the factors we look at is why the Iranians are pursuing longer-range missiles," he said. "The reason for developing missiles is that there is a target within the range of those missiles."

"The fact they are developing these systems tells us they want to hit targets further out," he continued. "This affects more and more NATO allies."

Rood, however, denied that any plans were afoot to put in place a third radar site, possibly in Turkey, the Caucasus or the Caspian Sea region.

Media reports claimed that Air Force Lieutenant General Henry Obering, director of the Pentagon's Missile Defence Agency, had said that a mobile radar system similar to one currently in Japan opposite North Korea was mooted for a later date.

"We don't have a fixed final architecture and the missile system will evolve as the threat evolves," Rood said. "However, talks are currently only ongoing with the Czech and Polish governments."

While no significant progress was made in the talks with the Russian delegation headed by Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Kislyak, Rood said the meeting was part of a long process to help the two nations understand each other's point of view.

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