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U.S. Drops Plans For Missile Defense Shield In Europe

PRAGUE (RFE/RL) -- The acting prime minister of the Czech Republic, Jan Fischer, says U.S. President Barack Obama has told him that he has dropped controversial plans to install radar for a missile-defense system in Eastern Europe.

"Today, shortly after midnight, U.S. President Barack Obama called to inform me that his government was giving up its intention to build an antimissile radar system on the territory of the Czech Republic," Fischer told a Prague news conference.

The Czech-based radar was an essential part of the missile system, which also involved the stationing of 10 interceptor missiles in Poland. Canceling one part almost certainly means that the whole project is being abandoned.

"The Wall Street Journal" reports in a front-page article that an official delegation from Washington, including U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Ellen Tauscher, is visiting Poland and the Czech Republic on September 17 to brief them on the situation.

An Iranian medium-range Sejil-2 surface-to-surface missile

The newspaper cites present and former U.S. officials as saying the reason for the move is that Iran is not developing a long-range missile capability as quickly as had previously been thought. Therefore, the threat posed to Europe and the United States is correspondingly less.

Russia would welcome such a decision by the United States, a spokesman for the Russian Foreign Ministry said.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Andrei Nesterenko said such a step would be seen as positive by Moscow, but that so far Russia had not been given any official notification of Washington's decision on the missile shield.

Decision Can Be Reversed

The missile-defense shield was conceived by the previous administration of President George W. Bush as a means of countering perceived threats from Iran. The West suspects Iran of secretly trying to develop nuclear arms and of using its missile-development program as a delivery system.

The U.S. delegation to Warsaw and Prague will assure the governments there that the decision to drop the project can be reversed if Iran shows signs of posing an increased threat, sources say.

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates has scheduled a news conference in Washington for later in the day. Also attending will be General James Cartwright, an expert on the technical challenge of designing and installing interceptor missiles to defend against incoming long-range missiles.

Russia fiercely opposed the project, which it saw as directed at itself, rather than faraway Iran or North Korea. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov had already said Moscow would view the cancellation not as a concession but as the reversal of a mistaken policy.

Poland and the Czech Republic, on the other hand, fear that Russia will see the cancellation as a sign that the United States is wavering in its defense of Europe, and is susceptible to Russian pressure.

Related Article:

Barack Obama abandons missile defence shield in Europe - Barack Obama has abandoned the controversial Pentagon plan to build a missile defence system in Europe. The move has prompted angry accusations of betrayal from Washington's eastern European allies but delighted the Kremlin. - Guardian

Copyright (c) 2009 RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

... Payvand News - 09/17/09 ... --

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