US missile defence chief dismisses Czech ratification delays
A senior US defence official said Friday that plans for placing a US missile defence system in Europe would not slow down even if Czech lawmakers postpone their final decision on the project until after a new US president takes office.
"This threat is going to continue to emerge. That is going to cause the next president, whoever that may be, to have to address that," said US Missile Defence Agency's head, General Henry Obering.
Speaking to reporters in Prague, Obering said that congressional Democrats have been supportive of the missile defence system when approving agency's funding requests for 2008 and 2009, dpa reports.
"That vote is a strong endorsement for missile defence," he said.
He said that he neither expects resources to be shifted away from protections against long-range missiles to other types of defences if Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama is elected.
"I don't think there will be ... any more shift ... we have already started," he said.
Obering was neither worried that the global financial crisis would dry up funding for the missile shield's European arm. The turmoil will have an "across-the-board effect, not just on missile defence", he said.
Despite Russia's strong objections, the United States plans to build bases in the Czech Republic and Poland for its missile defence system against potential long-range missiles from so-called rogue states such as Iran.
The general said that "most of the intelligence community believes" that Iran could develop missiles reaching Europe within a year and those endangering the United States in five to six years.
If Czech lawmakers were to reject the project it would be "a major setback" amid a continuing threat, Obering said.
He would not disclose where Washington would build the system's radar if Czech parliament rejects the US proposal.
The general retires in three weeks and will be succeeded at the agency's helm by his deputy, Major General Patrick O'Reilly.
On his "last trip to the Czech Republic in uniform", Obering received a new defence honour from Czech Defence Minister Vlasta Parkanova.
He also announced three Czech-US missile defence research projects, worth 800,000 dollars, three quarters of which are earmarked for Czech partners.