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Bush to talk missile defense with Czech, Polish leaders

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WASHINGTON, June 4 (RIA Novosti) - President George W. Bush will discuss U.S. missile defense plans in Europe as part of his eight-day tour of seven European countries starting later Monday, the White House said.

Bush will visit the Czech Republic, Germany, Poland, Italy, the Vatican, Albania, and Bulgaria.

He will arrive in Prague Monday evening and will meet Tuesday with the Czech President Vaclav Klaus and Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek to discuss, among other things, the deployment of a U.S. missile defense radar there and will meet with Polish President Lech Kaczynski Friday to address the deployment of interceptor missiles.

Bush previously said the defense systems were not directed against Russia.

Russia has made no secret of its security concerns after the U.S. announced plans to deploy elements of its missile shield in the Czech Republic and Poland as a defense mechanism against possible attacks from Iran or North Korea.

Putin said Thursday that Russia's new missile tests and threats to quit a European key arms control treaty were in response to the "absolutely harmful" missile defense plans, an apparent reference to the United States.

In an interview with the German TV channel ZDF, Bush said he expected to discuss the issue with Putin and ease his concerns during the Group of Eight summit in Germany and also during Putin's visit to the U.S. in July.

Bush said the missile shield was designed to defend U.S. allies in NATO, and proposed that Russia join the project too.

He promised the technologies would be completely transparent and invited Russian experts to visit the sites and talk to U.S. military personnel. Bush reiterated that the missile shield was aimed at "rogue states" that could obtain nuclear weapons.

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