US, Lithuania deny holding formal missile shield talks

June 18th, 2008 - 3:49 pm ICT by IANS  

RIA Novosti
Washington/Vilnius, June 18 (RIA Novosti) The US and Lithuania have rejected reports that they were in talks on the deployment of the US missile shield elements in the ex-Soviet Baltic state if the ongoing talks with Poland failed. Poland’s Deputy Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski Tuesday said that Washington and Vilnius were holding missile defence talks which were proposed by the country’s defence minister in May, and the Polish side knew it.

Dismissing the statement by Waszczykowski, US State Department spokesman Tom Casey Tuesday said it was “an overstatement of any conversations we might have had with the government of Lithuania”.

“We are continuing our discussions with the Poles. We think we’re very close to an agreement. And we do expect it will work out, so I don’t think there’s going to be a need for any alternatives,” he said.

US chief missile shield negotiator John Rood was in Lithuania in May, but “he largely briefed them on the status of the discussions in Poland,” Casey said.

Lithuania’s Foreign Ministry also issued a statement in this regard and said that the country “is not holding any talks on the deployment of a part of the missile defence shield on its territory”.

Foreign ministry spokesperson Violeta Gaizauskaite said Vilnius backs the possible installation of the defence shield in neighbouring Poland.

Poland has taken a tough stance on the missile talks with the US demanding the latter upgrade its air defence systems as a condition for agreeing to station 10 interceptor missiles on its soil.

The US plans to deploy interceptor missiles in Poland and a radar in Czech Republic as part of its anti-missile shield in Central Europe, which Washington says will protect the region from possible attacks by “rogue” states such as Iran and North Korea.

Russia opposes the plan saying the missile shield would be a threat to its security and the nuclear deterrence system.

Czech Republic has given its formal consent to the missile shield in May, but the agreement with the US needs to be ratified by its parliament.

However, public opinion in the two former Soviet-bloc countries is largely against the proposed deployment.
RIA Novosti

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