Bush holding talks in Poland on Missile defense shield

197.jpgBush arrived in Poland on Friday for talks on a planned US missile shield in central Europe after receiving a surprise Russian counter-offer to base it in Azerbaijan. 


Bush, on his way home from the Group of Eight meeting in Germany, was whisked straight off in a helicopter from Gdansk to Jurata, a small resort on the Baltic coast, where he will meet his Polish counterpart Lech Kaczynski. Poland has agreed in principle to host 10 US interceptor rockets to shoot down hostile ballistic missiles and the two countries are currently negotiating details of a deal.


The interceptors and a radar in another ex-Soviet satellite, the Czech Republic, would form the European part of the shield Washington is assembling to counter the threat of a nuclear attack from what it calls “rogue” states such as Iran.


A skeptical Russia sees the project as undermining its own security and Putin has threatened to revert to the Cold War practice of targeting Russian missiles on Europe if the plan goes ahead.


Upping the ante, Putin made a surprise offer on Thursday to let the United States use a Russian-controlled radar in Azerbaijan to intercept any threats from the Middle East. On Friday, he said Russia was happy to share information from the radar.


White House spokeswoman Dana Perino told reporters on Friday the United States would talk to all parties — NATO, Czech Republic, Poland and Russia. Earlier, Polish Foreign Ministry spokesman Robert Szaniawski suggested Warsaw was not expecting Washington to ditch its current plans.


“From the Polish point of view, the negotiations are ongoing. We have not received any signals from the US side that they were planning to abandon plans of cooperation (on the shield),” said Szaniawski. A US diplomat said Bush was indeed determined to go ahead with the plan and was likely to make this clear when he met Polish President Lech Kaczynski later on Friday.


“Regardless of the Russian proposal, negotiations with the Czechs and Poles will go on,” the diplomat said. “The US does not see the proposal as a substitute (for the central European anti-missile project), it can only be complementary.”

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