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US proposes Russian presence at missile sites

By Xinhua

Prague : The United States could allow a Russian presence at the planned missile defense sites in eastern Europe to increase the plan’s transparency, US Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Tuesday.

After talks with Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek, the US defense chief said Russian representatives could be present at the planned US missile defense sites in the Czech Republic and Poland.

He said the US had proposed to keep parts of its missile shield on “stand-by” short of full readiness in order to soothe Russia’s worries.

This means the missile shield would only be fully activated if a threat were registered, Gates said.

He said the planned US bases in eastern Europe are not directed against Russia and that the Russians could also benefit from them.

Gates said Washington will consult with Prague on all steps it will take in negotiations with Moscow.

The Czech Republic is in talks with the United States on the missile defense plans, as is Poland. A recent opinion poll showed more than two-thirds of Czech citizens oppose the establishment of the base.

Gates has met Czech President Vaclav Klaus and Defence Minister Vlasta Parkanova.

He arrived in Prague from Kiev on Monday, one week before another round of talks between Czech and U.S. officials on the plans.

Gates had recently visited Moscow to talk with Russian officials, who strongly oppose U.S. plans to deploy interceptor missiles in Poland and a radar station in the Czech Republic.Moscow says the planned move poses a threat to the security of their country.

Russia has offered the United States an alternative – to jointly use its radar installations in Gabala, Azerbaijan.