Source AP ©

Poland protests against hosting US missile defense system, poll says

A solid majority of Poles continue to oppose hosting a contentious U.S. missile defense base, according to a poll released Tuesday, a day after the president voiced his strongest support to date for the plan.

The survey, conducted by CBOS, a publicly funded institute based in Warsaw, showed that 55 percent of those questioned oppose siting the base on Polish territory - a slight fall in opposition over the previous month, when those opposed was 60 percent.

The poll also showed that 28 percent support the plan - up slightly from the 26 percent measured in the earlier poll.

CBOS said the poll, collected June 29-July 2, appeared to have been influenced by a Russian offer to let the U.S. set up its system in Azerbaijan because it was interpreted as a sign of accord that eased fears of a new arms race.

Since then, however, tensions have again flared over the plan, with Russia on the weekend saying it was pulling out of a key European arms control deal. For months, the Kremlin had threatened the step in response to Washington's proposal to build the defense shield on its doorstep.

The U.S. wants to place 10 interceptors in Poland and a radar base in the Czech Republic, both former Warsaw Pact countries, arguing it will protect most of Europe from long-rage missile strikes from Iran.

The poll was released a day after President Lech Kaczynski gave his strongest indication to date that Warsaw supports hosting a base.

"There will be the shield because for Poland it's a very good thing," Kaczynski told reporters after meeting U.S. counterpart George W. Bush at the White House.

However, he also said that a number of issues were still being negotiated with the Americans. Among those are technical matters that include the base's location, size and legal status of its personnel.

But, he added: "If Poland didn't want to have the shield, it would not carry on the negotiations at all."

CBOS said it questioned 1,064 people and gave a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

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