March 31, 2008 / 9:51 AM / 12 years ago

Czech PM says U.S. radar deal almost ready: paper

Czech Republic's Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek and President Bush at the Oval Office, February 27, 2008. An agreement on building part of a U.S. missile defense shield in the Czech Republic is almost ready for signing, Topolanek was quoted as saying on Monday REUTERS/Larry Downing

PRAGUE (Reuters) - An agreement on building part of a U.S. missile defense shield in the Czech Republic is almost ready for signing, Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek was quoted as saying on Monday.

The United States wants to build a radar in the Czech Republic and place interceptor rockets in Poland as part of a system it says is intended to shield the United States and Europe from missile attacks by “rogue” states such as Iran.

Russia has fiercely opposed the plan, which would site U.S. military installations in its Soviet-era satellite states, and views it as a threat to its security.

“I have information that hopefully the last problems have been removed in the main agreement,” Topolanek told the daily Hospodarske Noviny in an interview.

He said an agreement may be announced at the NATO summit in Bucharest on April 2-4, and signed within weeks, but added that unspecified “conditionals” still remained.

Topolanek did not exclude the possibility the agreement could be signed during a security conference in Prague on May 5.

He said negotiations on a second treaty related to the shield, which deals with the status of U.S. soldiers to be deployed at the radar base, had yet to be completed.

The Czechs will be looking for a declaration at the NATO summit that the alliance supports the missile defense project, which the government hopes would win additional support for the deal in parliament. Czech opposition parties strongly oppose the shield plan and part of the ruling coalition is wavering.

U.S. President George W. Bush will meet his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin at the NATO summit and a one-to-one session in the Black Sea resort of Sochi this week to seek a compromise over the missile defense project, which may include allowing Russia to monitor the system.

Reporting by Jan Lopatka; Editing by Catherine Evans

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