August 29, 2007 / 9:53 AM / 10 years ago

Poland may soon finalize U.S. anti-missile talks

WARSAW (Reuters) - Poland and the United States may be nearing a breakthrough in talks to locate parts of a U.S. anti-missile shield on Polish soil, Poland’s deputy foreign minister was quoted as saying on Wednesday.

Witold Waszczykowski, who represents Poland in the talks, said a deal could be clinched within weeks after Washington signaled a compromise was possible on a Polish request for Patriot missiles or similar air protection to defend its cities.

“I will try to finalize the text of the document within a few, maybe a dozen or so, weeks,” Waszczykowski told the Dziennik daily. “The Americans will promise that if a threat appears, they would give Poland the necessary equipment, including the Patriots (missiles).”

Another round of talks is due early next month.

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.

The plan has angered Russia, which says the scheme threatens its security.

Poland’s opposition, which accuses the government of not consulting with other parties, wants the plans put on hold. Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski’s administration has already has lost its parliamentary majority and may be heading for an early election.

Radoslaw Sikorski, Poland’s former defense minister, who quit the cabinet in February, told Dziennik on Wednesday a government “in limbo” should not rule on giving another country’s army access to its territory.

But Waszczykowski downplayed such concerns.

“Let’s not exaggerate. It will not be an army stationing here. We are talking about 200 civilians and army specialists,” said Warsaw’s top negotiator on the missile shield plan.

Poland’s parliament must approve plans to host the missile interceptors before the project can go forward, but the chamber is due to vote on September 7 to dissolve itself and effectively call an early general election.

Most Poles oppose plans to host the anti-missile shield, opinion polls have shown.

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