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Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek may finalize
Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek may finalize a deal on the deployment of a U.S. radar in his country during a meeting with U.S. President George W. Bush in Washington on Wednesday.

The U.S. is planning to modify its X-band radar on the Kwajalein Atoll in the Pacific and relocate it to the Czech Republic, and to construct a base for 10 missile interceptors in Poland as part of a European missile shield, which the U.S. claims is needed to deter possible strikes from Iran and other "rogue states."

On the eve of his current trip to Washington, Topolanek said talks on the radar between the Czech Republic and the U.S. were almost complete, and the sides would be able to settle the few remaining issues during the meeting on Wednesday.

As part of the deal, Prague is demanding open access to at least five U.S. military research projects and a visa facilitation agreement with the United States, the Polish IAR news agency cited Topolanek as saying on Tuesday.

Topolanek said a formal missile defense treaty with the U.S. could be signed at the NATO summit in Bucharest in April, but only after Poland had reached a missile base agreement with Washington.

Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk is scheduled to meet with the U.S. president in Washington on March 10 to discuss the missile defense deal.

Meanwhile, speaking on Tuesday at the Heritage Foundation, a Washington-based political think-tank, the Czech premier said that domestic opposition to the European missile shield was a direct result of a "skillful propaganda campaign launched by Russia."

"There is opposition [toward the missile shield] in the Czech Republic, in Russia and, perhaps, in the EU, but even with all the different reasons for such varied opposition, there is a common denominator - a skillful propaganda campaign launched by the Russian Federation," Topolanek said.

Russia has fervently opposed Washington's plans, saying the European shield would destroy the strategic military balance and threaten Russia's national interests.

"Russia is not facing any real military threat, but senses that its revived imperial policy is being threatened, so, through harsh rhetoric, it wants to plant the seeds of confusion among the Western allies in order to weaken NATO," the Czech premier said.

Topolanek reiterated that the Czech Republic was willing to cooperate with Russia in many areas and maintain a dialogue with Moscow, but on issues of national concern, including the European missile shield, the country would make decisions on its own.

"It is historically imperative for the Czech nation never again to become a puppet of foreign military interests," he said, adding that the Czech Republic became "truly independent on June 30, 1991, when the last Soviet occupier left the country."


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