Hundreds protest US missile defense plan in Prague
Several hundred people rallied in the Czech capital Tuesday to protest a plan to base part of a U.S. missile defense shield on Czech territory, AP reported.
The protesters gathered at a downtown square as a parliamentary session began in the lower chamber of the Czech parliament which is set to start a debate whether to ratify the treaty allowing the radar base to built near Prague. The U.S. says the missile defense system is intended to defend against threats from Iran.
Jan Majicek, an organizer of the rally, said the protesters want lawmakers to reject the deal or else call a nationwide referendum on the issue. They planned to march to the U.S. Embassy later Tuesday.
Polls show that a majority of Czechs oppose the base.
The Czech government has approved the deal but parliamentary approval is not assured. The government needs some opposition votes to pass the bill. But the opposition has criticized the plan harshly.
Russia fiercely opposes the plan and has threatened an unspecified military response if the U.S.-Czech missile defense agreement is ratified.
Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek said it is unlikely Parliament will take a final vote on the issue before the U.S. presidential election in November.
The proposed U.S. missile defense system in Eastern Europe also calls for 10 interceptor missiles to be located in Poland.