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Gates Expects Poland to Continue Missile Defense Talks


U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates says he expects Poland's new government to continue to discuss hosting a U.S. missile defense site. U.S. Defense chief is in Prague for talks with Czech leaders on American plans to build part of a missile defense system in the Czech Republic. Czech government has expressed no strong objections to the U.S. plan. But polls show most Czech citizens oppose the missile systemVOA's Al Pessin reports from Prague.

Secretary Gates says it is too early to fully assess the impact of Sunday's Polish election, which put the opposition party in power. But he said he hopes Poland will continue working with the United States on missile defense, as well as in the military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"Regardless of the composition of the government, I expect that cooperation to continue," he said. "But, obviously, we will have to have discussions with the new government in Poland, in terms of their specific future plans."

A senior U.S. defense official says the United States wants to finish its negotiations with both Poland and the Czech Republic in time for their parliaments to consider the treaties early next year, and for construction to begin later in the year. But he says the talks with Poland are not as far along as the negotiations with the Czech Republic.

The senior official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, says the talks will continue in spite of Russia's opposition to the U.S. plan to put the missile defense facilities in Central Europe. During a visit to Moscow earlier this month, Secretary Gates presented some secret proposals designed to ease Russian concerns. The U.S. official says Russia had not responded to the ideas by the end of last week.

After his meetings with Czech officials on missile defense and other issues Tuesday, Secretary Gates travels on to the Netherlands for a NATO defense ministers meeting. He says he will press the allies to live up to their commitments to send troops to the NATO-led security effort in Afghanistan.

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