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U.S. to relocate missile defense system

  |   Aug. 27, 2009 at 11:50 AM
WARSAW, Poland, Aug. 27 (UPI) -- Washington may relocate the controversial missile defense system planned for Eastern Europe to the Balkans, Turkey or Israel, a Polish newspaper reports.

The U.S. plan included 10 long-range interceptor missiles in Poland and a radar station in the Czech Republic. That plan will almost certainly be scrapped, Polish daily Gazeta Wyborcza reports. Washington is now looking for alternative locations including in the Balkans, Israel and Turkey, the daily says, citing U.S. administration officials and lobbyists based in Washington.

"The signals that the generals in the Pentagon are sending are absolutely clear: as far as missile defense is concerned, the current U.S. administration is searching for other solutions than the previously bases in Poland and the Czech Republic," Riki Ellison, chairman of the Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance, a Washington-based lobby group, told the newspaper.

The system, meant to be ready by 2013, was aimed at defending the United States and its allies in Europe against nuclear attacks from rogue states such as Iran.

The Kremlin, however, says the planned location in Eastern Europe is compromising Russia's national security and a further sign of NATO's eastward expansion. Russia believes the alliance has turned from a security coalition into a geopolitical tool used by the United States to increase its political and economic clout in Eastern Europe.

Washington had promised to alleviate Russia's concerns and integrate Moscow in the system as much as possible, with proposals having included stationing Russian officers at the sites to monitor them. However, no cooperation ever materialized.

U.S. President Barack Obama has shaken up foreign policy and tried to improve ties with the Kremlin. He has previously signaled a willingness to talk about the missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic. Obama's predecessor, George W. Bush, had already struck deals with Warsaw in 2008.

U.S.-Russian relations were challenged on several other fronts over the past years, with differences over human rights, the independence of the former Serbian province of Kosovo and last year's Russian-Georgian war.

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