Czech Govt. supports US missile defense

PRAGUE, Czech Republic – The Czech government firmly favors hosting a U.S. missile defense site but believes it will take longer to negotiate a deal than U.S. officials had hoped, a senior Czech official said Tuesday.

Tomas Pojar, deputy minister of foreign affairs, told U.S. reporters traveling with Defense Secretary Robert Gates that his government’s support is based not only on a shared worry about future missile threats but also a “moral, historical” sense of appreciation for American support for Czech democracy.

He also stressed that Prague does not intend to rush a deal, and he predicted that it will be difficult to win approval in parliament.

“I think it’s going to take a few more months” than the U.S. timetable, which calls for completing negotiations by the end of the year and winning parliamentary approval next spring, Pojar said in an interview over breakfast at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs while Gates was meeting with President Vaclav Klaus.

Pojar said he takes little stock in public opinion polls that show a majority of Czechs oppose having a U.S. missile defense site on their territory.

Gates later held talks with Defense Minister Vlasta Parkanova and was scheduled to meet with Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek as well as with members of parliament with a range of views on missile defense.

The Pentagon wants to install 10 interceptor rockets in Poland which, when linked to a proposed tracking radar in the Czech Republic and to other elements of the existing U.S. missile defense system based in the United States, could defend all of Europe against a long-range missile fired from the Middle East.
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