February 27, 2008 / 5:01 PM / 11 years ago

Bush: Close to deal with Czechs on missile shield

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President George W. Bush said on Wednesday the United States was close to final agreement with the Czech Republic on hosting part of a U.S. missile defense shield.

A long-rage ground-based missile silo is pictured July 17, 2007, at the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, where the United States is testing the missile defence shield. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel

After White House talks, Bush and Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek said all that remained to be ironed out were “three words.”

Asked how near the sides were to agreement, Bush told reporters, “Close ... There’s a will to get this done.”

Bush also reassured Russia that the planned missile shield was not directed against it, despite Moscow’s assertion the system would threaten its security.

The Bush administration wants to deploy 10 interceptor missiles in Poland and a radar station in the Czech Republic as part of a global shield it says is meant to protect the United States and allies from long-range ballistic missiles from “rogue states” such as Iran and North Korea.

“Russia’s not a threat to peace,” Bush said. “Regimes that adhere to extremist ideologies which may have the capability of launching weapons to those of us who love freedom, they’re the threats to peace ... The missile defense system is aimed to deal with those threats.”

Topolanek said the only remaining sticking points had to do with environmental protection and he described them as minor.

“I am sure that we are going to finalize it very soon,” he said with Bush in the Oval Office.

Before leaving for Washington, Topolanek said both the Czech Republic and Poland wanted to finalize plans on missile defense in time for a NATO summit in Bucharest in April.

At the State Department, a spokesman said “good progress” was being made in the missile defense talks with Poland and a U.S. delegation was traveling there on February 29 to discuss defense modernization.

Poland has asked the United States to help modernize its own air defenses as part of the missile defense project. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said earlier this month Washington supported such modernization.

Reporting by Matt Spetalnick, editing by Lori Santos

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