Obama makes 'no commitment' on missile shield
WASHINGTON (AFP) – Barack Obama has made no commitment that a missile defense shield in eastern Europe will go ahead, an advisor to the president-elect said Saturday, in apparent contradiction of statements by Poland.
Earlier, a statement from Polish President Lech Kaczynski after the two men spoke by telephone said Obama had said he would go ahead with plans to build a missile defense shield in eastern Europe despite threats from Russia.
But Obama had given no such clear cut undertaking on the controversial program, his senior foreign policy advisor Denis McDonough said in a statement.
(The) "president-elect had a good conversation with the Polish President and the Polish Prime Minister about the important US-Poland alliance," McDonough said in a statement.
"President Kaczynski raised missile defense but President-elect Obama made no commitment on it.
"His position is as it was throughout the campaign, that he supports deploying a missile defense system when the technology is proved to be workable."
The statement by President Kaczynski appeared to put a different spin on the conversation between the two men.
"Barack Obama has underlined the importance of the strategic partnership between Poland and the United States, he expressed his hope of continuing the political and military cooperation between our two countries," the statement read.
"He also said the anti-missile shield project would go ahead," said a statement said.
Warsaw and Washington signed a deal on August 14 to base part of a US missile shield in Poland, despite Moscow's opposition and mounting East-West tensions over Georgia.
The United States wants to base 10 interceptor missiles in Poland plus a radar facility in the neighboring Czech Republic by 2011-2013 to complete a system already in place in the United States, Greenland and Britain.
Washington says the shield -- endorsed by NATO in February -- is aimed at fending off potential attacks by so-called "rogue states" such as Iran, and is in no way aimed at Russia.
The United States warns that Iran could develop long-range missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads by 2015-2017.
The plan has enraged Moscow and the Kremlin has threatened to aim its own missiles at the planned US installations.
Just hours after Obama's historic election victory on Tuesday, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said Moscow would station short-range missile systems in its Kaliningrad enclave wedged between Poland and fellow EU member Lithuania.
US negotiator John Rood said Thursday that Washington had given Russia fresh proposals to try to ease its concerns and hoped the row could still be resolved.
He said the offer was sent "earlier this week," before Medvedev announced his plans to deploy missiles in Kaliningrad.
Medvedev's remarks on Wednesday amounted to a warning shot to Obama and Washington's allies in central Europe.
The European Union and NATO also expressed strong concern over Russia's decision to deploy missiles on the EU's doorstep.
Polish lawmakers have yet to ratify the US missile defense deal while the Czech government has called for a delay in a final vote on its radar agreements until the inauguration of President George W. Bush's successor in January.