From Jan Lopatka, Reuters
Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek faces a battle to win parliamentary approval for a U.S. radar station to be built on Czech soil as part of a missile defence shield planned by Washington.
The two houses of parliament in the central European state, which joined NATO and the European Union in 2004, are expected this week to start debating two treaties that would allow the tracking radar to be stationed southwest of Prague.
The missile defence shield, which would also include 10 interceptor missiles based in neighbouring Poland, would help detect and shoot down any ballistic missiles fired at Europe and the United States by countries such as Iran.
Plans for the shield are backed by the fragile centre-right coalition government, but have alienated many ordinary people who fear they could make their country a target and undermine its security.
The plans also face resistance from the government’s parliamentary foes and have angered Moscow, which regards them as threat to its own security.
Asked about the prospects for ratification by the lower house, Foreign Affairs Minister Karel Schwarzenberg told Reuters: “There will be a problem. We must fight until the very last moment.”
“I hope that after all the people will realise the responsibility that they have,” he said.
Topolanek cancelled talks this week with U.S. President George W. Bush in Washington after doubts about the outcome grew following heavy losses by his Civic Democrats in an upper house election on October 25.