Tusk reassures locals they're safe near US anti-missile shield

Other News Materials 29 August 2008 23:24 (UTC +04:00)

Prime Minister Donald Tusk Friday met with residents near the future site of the US anti-missile shield, reassuring them the military base posed no danger or damage to local tourism. ( dpa )

"Places like Redzikowo or Slupsk perhaps will arouse more interest in the event of a conflict," Tusk told residents during a town-hall style meeting in northern Poland. "But for certain they'll be better protected than any other place in Poland."

Tusk said the shield's installation would help development in the region, and would not damage tourism, reported the Polish Press Agency.

"It wouldn't occur to me not to come because there's an installation," Tusk said. "Rather, more people will come."

Asked why there was no local referendum before their small town was picked as site, Tusk said this was because the shield was "strategically important for Poland".

A group of young people held a protest, PAP reported, and sat outside the facility with their mouths taped, displaying signs like, "Has nothing to say," "60 per cent of the public equals trash," and "Once Moscow, today Washington."

Poland recently agreed to host part of the US system in return for military aid, capping more than a year of tough bargaining in a project that has infuriated Russia.

The US broke deadlock in negotiations by agreeing to permanently base Patriot air defence missiles in Poland and offering a pledge of close cooperation in case of military threats.

The US says the system is meant to defend against missile threats from "rogue states" like Iran and North Korea. Russia vehemently opposes the shield, saying it is aimed against Moscow's arsenal of strategic nuclear missiles.

The Czech government agreed in July to provide the site for a tracking radar. Missile defence is deeply unpopular among Czechs and Poles, with polls showing most opposed to the US bases.

But recent polls have shown the Polish public becoming increasingly supportive of the shield after the Russia-Georgia conflict.

Some 58 per cent of Poles now support Pentagon's plan to base 10 missile interceptors on Polish soil, said a poll recently taken for the Rzeczpospolita daily.