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Czech foreign minister supports U.S. missile defense base in his country

PRAGUE, Czech Republic (AP) _ Foreign Minister Alexandr Vondra on Wednesday voiced support for a U.S. missile defense base in the region that would protect America and Europe from intercontinental ballistic missiles.

However, Russia's military chief of staff criticized U.S. plans to build a missile defense site in eastern Europe, warning in an opinion piece published in the Polish daily Dziennik on Wednesday that it could spark a new arms race.

The base would be the first American strategic missile defense site outside U.S. territory.

``In the future, the North Atlantic Alliance and European states will not be able to avoid the construction of this system, and it is in the interest of Europe to build such systems in cooperation with America,'' Vondra told a conference on the U.S. missile defense system.

U.S. Ambassador to Prague William Cabaniss said just where the system would be located has not yet been decided. But he did say that ``it's my hope that we will be able to offer the Czech Republic a chance to host a missile defense facility.''

U.S. defense experts in July finished a survey of possible locations for a missile defense base in the Czech Republic. A similar survey mission also traveled to neighboring Poland and U.S. authorities are expected to decided where to locate the base later this year.

Russian Gen. Yuri Baluyevsky said installing such a system near Russia's borders could ``upset the existing balance between Russian and American strategic weapons systems.'' Such a step, Baluyevsky wrote, ``will probably demand a correction in Russia's stance on arms reductions.''

``The installation of the American national missile defense system could initiate a new spiral in the arms race, and divert colossal resources from solving a host of problems not just in Russia or the U.S., but also in other countries,'' Baluyevsky said.
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