U.S. to Scout Missile Sites in Czech Republic

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Experts from the United States will arrive in the Czech Republic next week to examine locations for possible U.S. missile-defense base, the Czech Defense Ministry said Wednesday.

Defense Ministry spokesman Jan Pejsek said in a statement that a group of experts from the U.S. Missile Defense Agency will arrive in the country on July 18. It did not say how large the delegation would be or where they would visit.

However, the CTK news agency quoted Defense Minister Karel Khuenl as saying that about 20 experts will stay here for a week, and will check sites in three military areas.

Pejsek said the visit will only allow the United States to review suitable locations for a base from which U.S. interceptors could shoot down long-range missiles as part of a global defense network.

A similar mission already took place in the neighboring Poland, according to the statement.

If the United States requests to build a base on Czech territory, the Czech government will decide whether to accept or reject the proposal, Pejsek said.

Outgoing Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek has repeatedly said that a referendum would be needed to decide whether the country should host such a base, however, Mirek Topolanek, chairman of the conservative Civic Democratic Party that has been negotiating a coalition government with the center-right Christian Democrats and the Green Party following the June 2-3 elections, says parliament should decided.

The base would be the first American strategic missile defense site outside U.S. territory, designed to defend Europe against intercontinental-range missiles — primarily from launch points in the Middle East, analysts say.