Reuters: The United States intends to proceed with a radar and missile shield in central Europe despite Russian objections, a senior U.S. official said on Monday. By Lada Yevgrashina
BAKU (Reuters) – The United States intends to proceed with a radar and missile shield in central Europe despite Russian objections, a senior U.S. official said on Monday.
“We are continuing negotiations with those countries (Poland and the Czech Republic),” Daniel Fried, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State, told a news conference in Baku.
“We hope to succeed, and if we succeed, we will proceed with the development of a radar system for the Czech Republic and missiles for Poland,” he added.
The plan for a radar in the Czech Republic and interceptor missiles in Poland to avert potential missile strikes from Iran has angered Russia, which says the defense shield would threaten its security.
But Fried, who spent two days in Azerbaijan negotiating with the leaders of the Caucasus republic, made clear recent Russian counter proposals would not stop Washington’s shield plans.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has compared the U.S. plans with Moscow’s decision to deploy nuclear missiles in Cuba in 1962, proposed using the Qabala radar it hires in Azerbaijan instead of the European facilities.
Fried said the United States wanted to cooperate with Russia, but reiterated the Qabala radar could only be an addition rather than a replacement for installations in Poland and the Czech Republic — an idea Russia rejects.
However, he made clear Iran, suspected by the West of seeking to build a nuclear bomb and of working on long-range missiles to deliver it, could change Washington’s plans.
“I believe Secretary of Defence (Robert) Gates said we would activate the (missile) system based on the development of the Iranian threat,” Fried said. “So we are not on autopilot.”
“We are thinking about this and we will look at the development of Iran’s programs as we proceed,” he added.
Iran denies it is working on nuclear weapons and says its program is to provide an alternative source of energy allowing it to export more oil and gas.
But Tehran refuses to give up uranium enrichment, the most sensitive part of its program, which can be used for building bombs as well as for fuel.
The United States is leading an international campaign to pressure Iran into curbing its nuclear program.