Poland argues whether to set U.S. anti-ballistic missile defense base on its territory

Poland's new prime minister said Monday his government has opened a public debate on whether the country should allow Washington to install an anti-ballistic missile defense base on its territory. The government has said it would like Poland to be covered by the U.S. Missile Defense Initiative, an element of the so-called Star Wars defense system, protecting against nuclear missile attack.

"We have opened a public debate on the issue," Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz told a news conference. "We will take no decisions that would be bad for Poland."

Speaking earlier on state radio, he confirmed reports that for three years, Warsaw has been talking with Washington about the possibility of hosting such a base.

"This is an important issue for Poland, related to our security and to our cooperation with an important ally," Marcinkiewicz said.

It was not clear whether the United States was interested in Poland as a site for ground-based interceptor missiles or for something related, such as a radar installation, the AP informs.

The Industrial Telecommunications Institute in Warsaw, which makes radar systems, confirmed that in May 2003, it signed an agreement for cooperation on the project with Boeing Co., a contractor for the ballistic missile defense program.

"We have jointly done analyses on radar issues and, in general, on the issue," Roman Dufrene, the institute's director, told The Associated Press.

Poland contributed troops to the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq and now commands a multinational force in central Iraq that includes Polish soldiers.

The previous government said it would not participate in the program, if it were likely to cause further insecurity in the region by endangering relations with Poland's' neighbors, particularly Russia.

In the past, Russia has expressed concern about U.S. plans to build defenses against ballistic missiles.

Moscow had no immediate reaction Monday to Marcinkiewicz's statement.

Wojciech Luczak, a Polish expert on air defense systems, said the talks are at a "very general level because the system itself is not clearly defined yet."


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