US-Czech agreement on missile-shield postponed

April 29th, 2008 - 5:26 am ICT by admin  

Prague, April 29 (DPA) The signing of a deal to place a US missile-defence site in the Czech Republic, once tentatively set for May, has been postponed, Czech officials have said. Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek’s remarks Monday suggested that the delay was due to continuing talks on a related US-Czech agreement on the legal status of American troops at the planned radar base.

Czech officials initially said that US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice could stop in Prague to sign the main treaty in early May. But Topolanek Monday said that early June was a more likely time.

It would be “more effective if she arrives to sign both agreements,” he said.

In Washington, US State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said he knew of no “substantive differences” on the issues.

“This is really a matter of just working on the secretary’s schedule and the schedule for Czech officials to have a signing ceremony,” McCormack told reporters.

The main US-Czech agreement was announced April 3 during a NATO summit in Bucharest, Romania.

Czech and US negotiators made progress during three days of talks on the accompanying Status of Forces Agreement last week, but need to meet again, the Czech defence ministry has said.

The Czech foreign ministry had a different explanation for the delay, saying Rice and Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg needed to coordinate their schedules.

“We are looking for other dates,” spokeswoman Zuzana Opletalova said.

Both missile-defence treaties require approval in the Czech parliament, where Topolanek’s centre-right government will have to fight for support of the project.

Washington is also in talks with Poland on placing 10 interceptor missiles as part of the system on Polish soil. The plan to build a missile shield and US bases in the former Soviet-bloc nations has angered Russia.

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