Source AP ©

Presidents of 16 European countries meet in Czech Republic to discuss U.S. missile defense system

The presidents of 16 European countries meet in southeastern Czech Republic to discuss a planned U.S. missile defense system and Kosovo.

The annual gathering, in Brno this year, brings together presidents from central, southern and eastern Europe. The three-day summit begins with a dinner Thursday night. Talks are scheduled for Friday and Saturday.

The future status of Kosovo will be on the agenda, Czech President Vaclav Klaus said before the meeting.

A U.S. plan to place parts of a new missile defense system in the Czech Republic and Poland was "a possible topic for discussion," Klaus said. Russia is opposed to the plan.

"The region is unstable to a certain extent; that's what we'd like to tackle in our talks," Klaus said.

He was referring in particular to Kosovo, the predominantly ethnic Albanian province of Serbia, which is under international supervision and which could be granted internationally supervised independence under a U.N. plan backed by the United States and EU but strongly opposed by Serbia and Russia.

"To create another country with a small population and unhistorical borders is always a very complicated task," Klaus said. "But the status quo is intolerable, something has to be done."

The presidential gathering started out as a meeting of five former eastern-bloc nations with Germany and Austria in the Czech town of Litomysl in 1994 but has since grown into a top regional summit.

After Thursday's dinner, round-table discussions and bilateral talks were scheduled for Friday and Saturday in Brno, the Czech Republic's second-largest city, located 200 kilometers (125 miles) southeast of Prague.

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