Majority of Poles against U.S. shield plan: poll

WARSAW (Reuters) - More than half of Poles oppose the location of part of a U.S. anti-missile shield on Polish soil, a poll showed on Tuesday, a day after the Polish president said the project was a foregone conclusion.

Poland's President Lech Kaczynski attends a news conference after his meeting with President Bush in Washington, July 16, 2007. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel

Pollster CBOS said 55 percent of those surveyed opposed the anti-missile shield plans, while 28 percent had no objections.

Washington wants to place up to 10 ground-based interceptor missiles in northern Poland and a radar facility in the Czech Republic to protect against attacks from what it calls “rogue states” such as Iran and North Korea.

President Lech Kaczynski said on Monday during a visit to the United States that locating elements of the shield in Poland was largely a “foregone conclusion”, despite the fact that the plans have angered neighboring Russia.

Kaczynski expressed confidence over the proposed system, although Poland has held off on a formal agreement to host it and has pressed for concessions on issues such as related military contracts.

The Czech Republic has already agreed to the radar site.

The Polish parliament must approve the plan to host the missile interceptors before the project can go forward.

Securing parliamentary approval could be difficult, however, as one of the ruling coalition’s junior partners, the far-right League of Polish Families (LPR), opposes the shield plan.

An opposition party, the Democratic Left Alliance (SLD), has said the Polish government’s tentative agreement to the project, without revealing what Poland would get in return, demonstrates “a disregard for public opinion and Parliament”.

“Poland has agreed on the anti-missile shield location without negotiating,” SLD deputy Jolanta Szymanek was quoted as saying by PAP news agency.

The other junior coalition partner, rural leftist Self-Defense (SO), and Poland’s largest opposition party Civic Platform (PO) are adopting a wait-and-see approach, with PO calling for a referendum on the matter.

“Civic Platform is holding back on evaluating this project as good or bad for Poland until the framework conditions the Polish government has negotiated with the U.S. become known,” Bronislaw Komorowski, a leading PO deputy, told Reuters.

“We have suggested focusing action on making the American project part of a wider NATO project. In the past we took into account the package of conditions still to be negotiated, but now the government is talking about this less and less.”

The survey, conducted from June 29 to July 2 among 1,064 adult inhabitants of Poland showed 28 percent of Poles favored building elements of the shield in Poland, while 17 percent had no opinion.