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Britain Confirms U.S. Request to Use Base in Missile Defense Program

The United States has asked to use a radar complex in northern England as part of a global missile defense shield, the British government said Tuesday.

Prime Minister Tony Blair's Downing Street office said the government had made no decision on the written request to use the Royal Air Force base at Fylingdales in North Yorkshire.

Defense Secretary Geoff Hoon was expected to announce the request to lawmakers in the House of Commons later Tuesday.

Earlier this month Hoon told lawmakers that any request to use Fylingdales for missile defense would be considered "very seriously" and would be agreed only "if the security of the U.K. and the alliance would ultimately be enhanced."

President Bush is pushing to develop a range of defenses against ballistic missiles, arguing that "rogue states" such as North Korea could soon have missiles to threaten the United States.

Many Britons are opposed to British bases being used in the project, which has been dubbed "Son of Star Wars."

Neil Kingsnorth, a spokesman for the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, said he suspected the government had already made up its mind.

"The decision has already been made, they have already given the nod to America unofficially, and we are pretty sure that the answer will be yes at some point," he said.

In a discussion paper released earlier this month, the government said the Fylingdales early warning station would help defend Europe against a missile attack from the Middle East if the facility were part of the missile defense system.

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