Poland, US reportedly reach missile-defence deal

(dpa) - Polish and US negotiators plan to conclude a deal Thursday on placing part of a US missile defence system in Poland, a news agency reported, suggesting a breakthrough after more than a year of tough bargaining.

Slawomir Nowak, a top aide to Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk, appeared to confirm the report, telling Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa he expects the deal to be sealed Thursday.

"We are finishing our negotiations," he said in a telephone interview. "The agreement is very close."

The report by Poland's PAP news agency said that in return for agreeing to host 10 US missile interceptors on its soil, Poland will receive Patriot air defence missiles and increased military cooperation with the US.

US and Polish negotiators were meeting in Warsaw on Thursday in the latest in a series of talks that formally began in May 2007.

In July, the Bush administration signed a deal with the neighbouring Czech Republic on hosting a radar base - the other part of the system to be based in the two ex-communist countries.

Before the latest talks in Warsaw, top Polish government officials said a new US proposal was on the table and that Russia's military assault on Georgia had given an impetus to the missile defence talks.

Poland has bargained hard for US military aid in exchange for letting the United States base the interceptor missiles.

A key Polish concern is boosting its air defences after Moscow threatened to target the planned bases in its former satellites.

Russia strongly opposes the US plan, despite assurances from Washington that the shield would target ballistic missile threats from countries like Iran and was not meant to undermine Russia's nuclear deterrent.

Days before the latest talks, Tusk fired top Polish negotiator Witold Waszczykowski after he criticized the government's reluctance to make a deal with Washington.

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