PRAGUE (Reuters) - The Czech parliament should ratify a treaty to build a U.S. missile defence radar site in the central European NATO state by the end of this year, Deputy Foreign Minister Tomas Pojar said on Wednesday.
The United States wants to place a tracking radar system southwest of Prague as part of a system to protect America and Europe against the perceived threat of missile attack from countries such as Iran.
“I think it is possible to make it by the end of this year,” Pojar said. “It is probable that the final vote will be after the election in the United States, however that does not mean that it would be after the new (U.S.) president takes office.”
The election is in November, and the new administration takes over in January.
Washington also wants to put 10 interceptor rockets in Poland as part of the system, but talks there have hit a stumbling block over Poland’s demands for billions of dollars from the U.S. to upgrade its army and air defence systems.
Although Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek’s centre-right government is staunchly pro-United States, it will struggle to win approval for the shield in the Czech parliament, where it controls only 100 seats in the 200-member lower house.
Several government backbenchers have said they would oppose the treaty, so Topolanek will need to win support from independents or possibly deputies from the opposition Social Democrats, whose leadership is strongly against.
A Czech election may play a role as well. The vote on the shield is not expected before regional and upper house elections in the Czech Republic expected in October.
But government officials have said they are confident the ratification will proceed.
Russia has warned the United States against deploying the shield close to its borders. In the past Russia threatened to aim its nuclear missiles at countries hosting the shield.
The radar could be completed in 2012 or 2013, U.S. officials have said.
Reporting by Jan Lopatka; Editing by Dominic Evans