Hundreds protest US missile shield in Prague
( dpa ) - Several hundred opponents of US plans to place a radar base for a missile defence system on Czech soil protested Saturday near Prague Castle, seat of Czech presidents.
The protesters, who went on to rally in front of the US embassy, demanded a nationwide vote on the issue - a step opposed by the government.
While polls have repeatedly shown that some two thirds of Czechs reject the project, the US and Czech Republic are in the last stages of talks on treaties defining conditions for the deployment.
Once completed, the agreements must be approved by the Czech parliament, where the center-right cabinet so far lacks clear support for the project.
The government hopes that the upcoming NATO summit to be held in Bucharest in early April will yield assurances that the alliance would incorporate the planned US defence system.
Such guarantees would help the government in Prague to persuade lawmakers to ratify the treaties.
Washington asked Prague and Warsaw in January 2007 to host a tracking radar and 10 interceptor missiles respectively as part of the system's European arm.
The plans to place the shied, which the US says is being developed to prevent the so-called rogue states such as Iran from proliferating long range missiles, have sparked ire in Russia. Washington has so far failed to smooth over the dispute with Moscow.