Source Pravda.Ru

Deployment of US missile defense system in Czech Republic stirs up political scandal

Opposition lawmakers on Wednesday demanded an emergency parliamentary session to discuss possible location of part of a U.S. missile defense system in the Czech Republic.

Lawmakers for the three-member government coalition had previously rejected the opposition's proposal Tuesday to include the issue on the agenda of the current session of the lower chamber of parliament.

Last week, the Czech government received an official note from the United States requesting that a radar station be located in a military area southwest of Prague.

The Czech government will reply within the next few weeks, Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek said. If the plan is approved, some 200 specialists would be deployed and the base would become operational in 2011.

Washington also wants to open formal negotiations with Poland on locating ground-based interceptor missiles there as part of the system, which it says is aimed at protecting itself and its allies against potential attacks. Poland and the Czech Republic, both former communist states, now belong to NATO, the AP reports.

Under Czech law, the base would have to be approved by both chambers of the Parliament and the president.

Topolanek and his center-right Civic Democratic Party support the plan, but the process could be difficult because some political parties either oppose the proposal or are seeking more information.

Critics argue the base could endanger the country by making it a possible first-strike target in case of a nuclear conflict. Others worry it will worsen relations with Russia, which opposes the idea of locating parts of the system here.

Former Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek said Wednesday the issue is being debated within his opposition Social Democratic Party and most of the Social Democrats "are against the location of a radar here and demand a referendum on the issue."

The opposition Communists have already announced they would propose a law to hold a referendum on the plan.

According to an opinion poll released earlier this month, two-thirds of Czechs were against a missile interceptor site on Czech territory, but some 60 percent would agree with just a radar.

The poll by the private Factum Invenio agency was commissioned by the Foreign Ministry, and surveyed 961 people in late December. No margin of error was given, but polls of this size usually give a margin of error of 3 percentage points. Results were released in January.

The date of the parliament's emergency session has yet to be set.

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