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Bush Says Czech Missile Defense Agreement Close

President Bush says the United States and the Czech Republic are close to an agreement to put a missile defense radar system on Czech soil. VOA's Paula Wolfson has details from the White House.

President Bush says he is optimistic a deal will be reached soon.

"Look, there is a will to get this done for the sake of mutual security and for the sake of peace," he said.

Speaking to reporters after talks with Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek, Mr. Bush said only minor details remain to be resolved.

The prime minister said the differences amount to three words dealing with the environmental impact of a potential U.S military presence on Czech soil.

"We are actually looking for the standards which would be the strictest possible standards to be applied in terms of ensuring and guaranteeing environmental protection. That is a technical matter that is going to be resolved very soon," said Mr. Topolanek.

Russia remains staunchly opposed to the missile defense proposal, which would put a radar installation in the Czech Republic and 10 interceptor missiles in Poland. Moscow says the system would threaten its security and spark a new arms race.

President Bush said once again that the system is being set up to deal with future threats from extremist regimes. He said Russia has nothing to fear from the missile defense plan, adding it too faces a threat from rogue nations such as Iran.

"You know if some of these countries develop a weapon that is capable of developing [delivering] a nuclear warhead, free nations, nations such as Russia, do not want to be in a position of political blackmail," said Mr. Bush.

The president stressed the U.S. missile defense initiative is aimed at bringing stability to Europe. He said it will be an asset to NATO, and will respect the sovereignty of all nations that agree to host elements of the system.

The deal with Poland is still pending. The Polish prime minister will bring his concerns to the White House on March 10.