Obama backs shield only if technology proven: aide

WARSAW Sat Nov 8, 2008 12:30pm EST

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WARSAW (Reuters) - Poland said on Saturday U.S. President-elect Barack Obama had declared he would continue with a missile shield project in eastern Europe, but an Obama aide in Washington said he had given no commitment to deploy the system.

Poland and the neighboring Czech Republic have agreed to host elements of the U.S. defense network, designed to protect against missile attacks by what Washington calls "rogue states."

Russia, which has opposed the scheme, announced on Friday plans to install its own missile defenses in its westernmost outpost of Kaliningrad as a counter-measure.

A statement on the Polish presidential website, issued after a telephone conversation between Obama and Polish President Lech Kaczynski on Friday, said: "He (Obama) stated that the anti-missile-shield project would be continued."

But a senior Obama foreign policy adviser qualified what the president-elect had been reported as saying in his talk with the Polish president.

"President Kaczynski raised missile defense, but President-elect Obama made no commitment on it," Denis McDonough told Reuters.

"His position is as it was throughout the campaign -- that he supports deploying a missile defense system when the technology is proved to be workable," the adviser added.

According to Kaczynski's website, "during the conversation, Barack Obama emphasized the importance of the partnership between Poland and the United States and expressed the hope that political and military cooperation would continue."

Some Polish politicians have expressed fears that a Democratic Obama presidency might be less enthusiastic toward the plan launched by President George W. Bush.

(Reporting by Rob Strybel, Editing by Ralph Boulton)

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