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Czech Cabinet approves deployment of U.S. missile shield

WARSAW, May 21 (RIA Novosti) - The government of the Czech Republic has approved the deployment of a component of the U.S. global anti-missile system on its territory, the prime minister said on Wednesday.

The basic document still needs to be ratified by the country's parliament and signed by President Vaclav Klaus.

Prague and Washington are expected to sign a total of two agreements on the deployment of a radar base in the Czech Republic. In addition to the missile defense treaty, the United States and the Czech Republic are to sign the SOFA treaty on the stationing of U.S. troops in the country.

Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek said tax-related issues still need to be resolved on the SOFA treaty, but should be ironed out within a fortnight, after which the Czech Republic and the U.S. will be able to sign both treaties in late June-July.

The signing of the basic treaty had been planned for early May but was delayed as U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had to postpone her trip to Prague planned for May 5.

A Czech diplomatic source said the country is keen to complete the talks and sign the documents before George Bush steps down as U.S. president in January 2009.

The U.S. is planning to modify its X-band radar on the Kwajalein Atoll in the Pacific and relocate it to the Czech Republic as part of its proposed European missile shield, which will also include deploying 10 interceptor missiles in Poland.

There is considerable opposition to the deployment plan in the Czech parliament, with the leading opposition force, the Social Democratic Party, demanding a referendum on the issue.

Russia has also spoken out against the missile defense shield plan, saying it poses a threat to its national security. Russia has rejected Washington's assurances that the planned missile defense system is designed as protection against possible attacks by Iran and other 'rogue' states.

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