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    Czech diplomat says Gabala radar no alternative to Europe shield

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    The Gabala radar Russia leases from Azerbaijan cannot be considered an alternative to U.S. missile shield plans in Central Europe, a senior Czech diplomat said on Thursday.

    BAKU, November 1 (RIA Novosti) - The Gabala radar Russia leases from Azerbaijan cannot be considered an alternative to U.S. missile shield plans in Central Europe, a senior Czech diplomat said on Thursday.

    However, Deputy Foreign Minister Tomas Poyar said Gabala could be used as an addition to the European missile shield.

    Speaking on his visit to Aberbaijan, Poyar said: "It would be great if the radar in Azerbaijan became part of the U.S. missile defenses, because a system that incorporates several radars is more effective."

    The United States announced in January it was planning to deploy elements of its global missile defense system in the Czech Republic and Poland to avert possible strikes from "rogue states," such as Iran and North Korea.

    However Russia, already unnerved by NATO expansion to former Warsaw Pact member states, has condemned the plans as a threat to national security and a destabilizing factor for Europe.

    At the G8 summit in Germany five months ago, Russian President Vladimir Putin offered the U.S. the use of the Gabala radar station as a compromise solution in the ongoing dispute. The radar, located near the town of Minchegaur, 120 kilometers (75 miles) from the capital Baku, was leased to Russia for 10 years in 2002.

    The radar station has been operational since early 1985. Russia says that with its range of 6,000 kilometers (3,700 miles), it is the most powerful in the region and can detect any missile launches in Asia, the Middle East and parts of Africa.

    However, the U.S. and future hosts of the European shield insist they will continue with the deployment plans in Central Europe.

    Poyar said the Czech government was currently in talks with U.S. military experts on the radar construction schedules and details. "If we agree on this issue, it will be passed to the [Czech] parliament for consideration," he said.

    Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek reaffirmed on October 24 that his country is committed to continuing preparations for the placement of a U.S. radar on its territory.

    "I hope that we will have everything coordinated before my trip to the United States at the beginning of next year, in February at the latest," Topolanek said at a meeting with U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates in Prague.

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