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Uncertainty in Czech Republic over US missile defence project

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Uncertainty in Czech Republic over US missile defence project

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Prague will welcome President George W. Bush later today in a climate of uncertainty over the United States’ proposed missile defence system for eastern Europe. The Czech republic is earmarked to house the radar base for the non-Nato project.

“I am for it,” said one man. “America is our close ally and we have to keep our promises and agreements.”

“There are pros and cons,” said another. “I am concerned about the Russian reaction. It could lead to unnecessary tensions.”

In the rural zones where the US would like to place the base, referenda have shown a clear majority against the project. Few welcome the idea of being a potential target in a new Cold War and the practical consequences weigh heavily too. One mother said children would have less space to play in.

Pacifists are highly mobilised against the scheme but the Czech government supports it. In a country where German and Russian invasions lie within living memory, the idea of a US-backed protective shield has its advocates. Washington is calling for the Prague government to make a final decision by January 1 2008.