Congress panel cuts funds for missile defence in Europe


Washington : A US congressional committee voted to reduce funding for the Pentagon's plan to install missile defence in Europe, but left open the possibility of restoring the money once Poland and the Czech Republic agree to host the bases.

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The House Armed Services Committee voted late Wednesday to cut $160 million from the Pentagon's $310 million request to begin preparatory work on a radar site in the Czech Republic and missile interceptor site in Poland.

The committee also said the United States should get NATO's full support before it will consider restoring the funds. The panel left funding in the bill for the development of the interceptor missiles and radar system.

The reduction was packaged into a $503.8 billion Defence Department budget authorization for 2008 fiscal year. The committee determined that it would be "premature" to provide the funds before an agreement with Poland and the Czech Republic has been reached.

The United States and the Czech Republic began negotiations Thursday in Prague for the installation of a radar site.

The House Appropriations Committee will make the final funding decision, before the budget goes to a full vote in Congress' lower chamber. The Senate has yet to take up the Pentagon's request.

The Pentagon's Missile Defence Agency remained hopeful that the full amount will be restored by the Appropriations Committee.

"There is still a long ways to go," agency spokesman Richard Lehner said.

The US wants to install missile defence in Europe to counter Iran's growing ballistic missile capability and possible nuclear threat. The plans have stirred controversy in Europe and angered Russia.