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Czechs and US meet to discuss missile defense treaty

Army spokesman Jan Pejsek said Tuesday that Czech and U.S. negotiators had started a third round of talks on a missile defense treaty.

The Czech government delegation was being headed by Ivan Dvorak, chief of the strategic defense planning department of the Foreign Ministry. The U.S. was represented by a delegation headed by State Department special envoy Jackson McDonald.

The U.S. made a formal request in January to place a radar base near Prague as part of a defense shield that Washington says is needed to protect European allies against a potential threat from Iran.

The U.S. also wants to place 10 interceptor missiles in neighboring Poland as part of the system. The two former Soviet satellites are now NATO members and Russia opposes the deal, saying it believes the real aim is to weaken Russia.

Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov recently accused the U.S. of backtracking on proposals for cooperation on the issue, arguing Washington had gone back on compromises promised when he met with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in October.

The two-day talks in Prague will be followed by a high-level meeting on Friday between delegations of the Czech Foreign Ministry and the State Department represented by John C. Rood, the secretary of state for arms control and international security.

Prior to that meeting, Rood will discuss the issue with Russian diplomats in the Hungarian capital, Budapest, on Thursday.

If a deal with the U.S. is reached, the plan would go before the Czech Parliament for a vote, but no decision is expected this year.

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