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US, Poland, Reach Tentative Deal on Missile Defense


U.S. officials say the United States and Poland have reached a tentative agreement under which part of a U.S. missile defense system will be based on Polish soil. The deal to station interceptor missiles in Poland still requires top-level Polish government approval. VOA's David Gollust reports from the State Department.

A senior Bush administration official says the two sides have finalized the text of a draft accord, under which Poland will join the Czech Republic in hosting a regional U.S. defense system aimed against an anticipated long-range missile threat from Iran.

No terms of the tentative deal were disclosed though Poland had been seeking, in return for accepting the U.S. system, a multi-billion dollar upgrade of its air defense capabilities.

The senior official said the deal was hammered out late Tuesday after two days of closed door Washington meetings this week between State Department officials and officials of the Polish defense and foreign ministries.

The U.S. plan calls for the stationing of ten interceptor missiles in Poland and an associated advanced radar system in the Czech Republic. A tentative agreement with the Prague government was reached several weeks ago.

The planned system has been strongly opposed by Moscow, which contends, despite U.S. denials, that the anti-missile system would undercut its strategic nuclear deterrent.

In a talk with reporters Wednesday, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Dan Fried said the United States has tried to address Poland's concerns about the Russian position and other key issues:

"The Poles have urged us to reach out to Russia with a serious offer on missile defense, and as you know, we have done so," he said. "The Poles, and the Czechs as well, have urged us to work more with NATO, and if possible get NATO's support for missile defense. We've done so successfully, at the NATO summit last April. And the Poles have also asked us to address Polish modernization. And as you know we have agreed to that as well."

Fried, a key participant in the missile dialogue, hailed Poland as a magnificent ally of the United States, noting its role in the U.S.-led military coalitions in both Iraq and in Afghanistan, where Poland has recently increased its troop and aircraft contribution.

The senior official who spoke here said the next step in the process is up to the Polish leadership, and did not offer a timeframe for when the agreement would get final approval.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is expected to discuss the missile defense issue, among others, on a European trip next week.

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