Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice met her Polish counterpart, Foreign
Minister Radek Sikorski, for more talks on a possible Polish role in a
U.S. regional missile defense system in Europe. Rice leaves Washington
late Monday on a European mission to conclude a missile defense deal
with the Czech Republic. VOA's David Gollust reports from the State
Secretary Rice met behind closed doors with Foreign
Minister Sikorski in a last-minute effort to conclude a deal before her
European mission, which U.S. officials at one point hoped would include
a stop in Warsaw to sign an accord.
The United States wants to
station 10 interceptor missiles in Poland and an associated radar
system in the Czech Republic to counter what U.S. officials believe
will be a long-range missile threat from Iran within a few years.
tentative agreement with the Czech Republic was reached several weeks
ago and Rice is expected to sign the agreement this week in Prague.
negotiations with Poland have been difficult, with the Warsaw
government pressing for the United States to underwrite a costly
upgrade of the country's air defense system.
Last week, senior
U.S. officials said a tentative accord had been reached, but Polish
Prime Minister Donald Tusk last Friday said the U.S. offer was
unsatisfactory, although talks would continue.
In a talk with
reporters, State Department Spokesman Sean McCormack was cautious about
prospects for finalizing an accord during Mr. Sikorski's Washington
visit, which will also include talks with Undersecretary of State for
Arms Control and International Security John Rood.
"I do not
comment on close or not close," he said. "othing is done until
everything is done. It is not done. We continue to work on it. We
know it is a big issue for the Polish government. It is an important
issue for us. So we are devoting the time and energy to try to work
through any issues that may exist on either side."
been press reports the Bush administration might turn to Lithuania as
an alternate site for the interceptors if the Polish talks stalled, and
U.S. officials have acknowledged contacts with the Baltic state on the
Spokesman McCormack said the administration always has a
fall-back plan, but said its energies remain focused on the talks with
Opinion polls indicate the proposed U.S. defense plan is
politically unpopular in Poland and the Czech Republic, partly because
of strong opposition from Russia, which contends the system would
undercut its strategic missile deterrent.
U.S. officials argue
the 10 interceptors could not possibly threaten Russia's huge missile
force and have offered to cooperate with Moscow on what they depict as
a shared threat from Iran or other rogue-state missiles.
four-day European trip will take her to the Czech Republic, Bulgaria
and Georgia. It will be her first visit to Georgia as Secretary of
State and McCormack said her focus will be on a peaceful resolution of
tensions between Georgia and Russia over the separatist Georgian
regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.