Source AP ©

Senior State Department official:"Opposition to a proposed U.S. missile defense system is softening."

A senior State Department official said that opposition is softening in Europe to a proposed U.S. missile defense system on the continent.

"Our central message is getting through," said Dan Fried, assistant secretary of state for European affairs, alluding to the U.S. plan to install 10 interceptors in Poland and a radar system in the Czech Republic. "We have seen a noticeable shift in European attitudes."

The U.S. goal is to protect Europe from a potential attack from "rogue nations," including Iran and North Korea.

Speaking to reporters, Fried noted approvingly an editorial Friday in a German newspaper asserting that the missile defenses planned for Poland seemed far less menacing than the missiles that Iran has been developing.

Russia has expressed vigorous opposition to the U.S. program, but Fried said Moscow may not be as uncompromising as its rhetoric suggests and may even eventually become a U.S. missile defense partner.

"Russia, I'm reasonably confident, is taking a hard, serious look at the American proposals for missile defense cooperation," he said.

Last month, Russian President Vladimir Putin threatened to renounce a Cold War-era agreement that regulates deployment of military aircraft, tanks and other conventional forces in Europe if the United States should implement its missile defense plan.

Fried also predicted that opposition in the U.S. Congress to the plan will recede over time. He said he attaches little significance to a vote on Wednesday by the House Armed Forces strategic forces subcommittee to delete $160 million (EUR117.5 million) sought by the administration for the installation in Poland.

The vote, he said, was "one step in a very long process."

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