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Prague and Washington will prepare a treaty on missile defense cooperation,
Prague and Washington will prepare a treaty on missile defense cooperation, with the involvement of Czech firms, by June 2008, the Czech foreign minister said on Thursday.

Czech and U.S. defense industry experts have gathered in Prague for a series of seminars to discuss the involvement of Czech companies in the construction of a planned European missile shield.

"A treaty on the participation of the Czech firms in the U.S. missile shield project may be ready by June," the Czech CTK news agency quoted Karel Schwarzenberg as saying.

The Pentagon wants to modernize a radar system currently deployed on the Marshall Islands in the West Pacific and relocate it to the Czech Republic at a cost of $125 million, including testing and start-up expenses.

Washington claims that a radar in the Czech Republic and 10 missile interceptors in neighboring Poland, will serve as part of a European missile shield to counter a missile threat from Iran and other "rogue" states. Russia vehemently opposes the plans.

Schwarzenberg said the proposed treaty would open up new opportunities for bilateral cooperation in sciences, defense research and hi-tech industry.

"The Czech firms will have better chances to get defense contracts from the Pentagon," the minister said.

Executives from a dozen U.S. defense companies, including Raytheon, Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman, are participating in the current missile defense seminars. They may also consider sharing new laser and radar technologies with the Czech counterparts, the news agency said.

The Czech government will submit to parliament in April a missile defense bill, including plans to place a U.S. radar on the territory of the Central European country.

According to U.S. Opinion Research Corporation, 51% of Czechs are against the American radar deployment plans. The Czech parliamentary opposition has demanded a referendum on the issue, but the government has so far refused.


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