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US to Press Ahead With Anti-Missile Plan

AP | June 9, 2007
TERENCE HUNT

President Bush signaled Friday the United States will press ahead with a missile defense shield in Eastern Europe despite Russia's heated objections. Poland's president expressed support for installing interceptor rockets in his country.

An upset stomach crimped Bush's schedule on a busy day that took him from Germany to Poland and finally to Italy. The president stayed in bed and skipped morning sessions at the summit of world leaders in Heiligendamm, Germany, and he appeared subdued later after talks in Poland with President Lech Kaczynski.

"Still not 100 percent but better all the time," White House deputy press secretary Dana Perino said of her boss.

On Saturday, Bush will meet for the first time with Pope Benedict XVI. Large anti-Bush demonstrations are planned in Rome, and Premier Romano Prodi had to ask his Cabinet members to refrain from taking part.

The administration made clear it was not abandoning plans for a missile-defense program in Poland and the Czech Republic despite a surprise counterproposal Thursday by Russian President Vladimir Putin to instead use a Soviet-era radar tracking station in Azerbaijan.

Putin had more suggestions on Friday for locations for missile interceptors: "They could be placed in the south, in U.S. NATO allies such as Turkey, or even Iraq," Putin said. "They could also be placed on sea platforms."

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, in an Associated Press interview in New York, said Friday, "One does not choose sites for missile defense out of the blue. It's geometry and geography as to how you intercept a missile."

"This is an idea that has not yet been vetted," she said of Putin's offer. "We have to see whether Azerbaijan makes any sense in the context of missile defense."

The U.S. system calls for a radar screen in the Czech Republic to watch for missile threats, and 10 interceptor rockets in Poland to shoot down any missiles. Both Bush and Kaczynski said the system would not threaten Russia. The Kremlin argues that the system would undermine its nuclear deterrent.

"The system we have proposed is not directed at Russia," Bush said after talks with Kaczynski at the presidential retreat at Jurata, a resort on the Baltic Sea. "Indeed, we would welcome Russian cooperation on missile defense."

Bush said a working group including the United States and Russia would "discuss different opportunities and different options, all aimed at providing protection for people from rogue regimes who might be in a position to either blackmail and/or attack those of us who live in free societies."

Kaczynski voiced strong support for putting the interceptors on Polish soil. "As far as the missile defense system is concerned, the two parties fully agree," Kaczynski said.

"The Russian federation can feel totally safe," said Kaczynski. He said Moscow must recognize that the world has changed since the fall of the Soviet Union nearly two decades ago.

Bush thanked the Polish president for sending troops to both Iraq and Afghanistan. Poland has nearly 900 troops in Iraq, and Bush noted that the country had recently agreed to keep them there at least through the end of the year.

The three-day summit in Heiligendamm ended with agreement to commit more than $60 billion to fight disease in Africa. Half of the money already had been pledged by Bush, and other countries would have to fill in the rest. Anti-poverty activists have complained that promises to boost annual aid to poor countries have not been met.

The leaders also warned Iran to drop its disputed nuclear program, signaling support for U.N. Security Council moves to discuss a third set of sanctions against Tehran. But, in a setback, they failed to reach a deal about the independence-seeking Serbian province of Kosovo.

White House counselor Dan Bartlett said Bush likely fell ill with "some sort of bug, probably more viral in nature" and that it appeared unrelated to anything he ate.

Bartlett joked that Bush's decision to avoid the other leaders for a while was a "precautionary step" to avoid following in the footsteps of his father, former President George H. W. Bush.

At a state dinner in Tokyo in January 1992, the elder Bush fainted and vomited into the lap of Prime Minister Kiichi Miyazawa.

 

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