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Czech official says US responsible for damage by radar base

The United States should provide financial guarantees for the liquidation of possible environmental damage caused by the operation of its planned anti-missile radar base in the Czech Republic, Deputy Environment Minister Jan Dusik said on Wednesday.

“We want (the United States) to assume responsibility. We do not want the same problem we had, when the Soviet Army left (after the 1989 collapse of the communist regime),” the Czech news agency quoted CTK Dusik as saying. An agreement on such guarantees has not been achieved during the bilateral negotiations on the radar base yet. Dusik said that the agreement will depend largely on the formulations the Americans will propose. The Czech Republic does not require the United States to set up a special fund but only to make a general declaration to which it could refer in case of need, Dusik said.

Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek said after meeting US President George Bush in Washington last week that the agreement on the US radar base on Czech soil is close. According to Topolanek, the signing of the agreement now depends on environment-related requirements. Besides the radar base in the Czech Republic, the United States also wants to build an interceptor missile base in Poland, both as parts of the US missile defense shield in Central Europe.

The Czech center-right government favors the US project, while some 70% of Czechs reject it. The next round of talks is planned for the last week in March, Defense Minister Vlasta Parkanova told journalists on Wednesday. She said that it is difficult to predict when the negotiations will be completed. They may continue until April, she added. (