Czech-U.S. talks on SOFA treaty to resume next week

The Czech-U.S. talks on the SOFA treaty (Status of Forces Agreement) that specifies the legal framework of U.S. personnel at the planned radar base on Czech soil will continue simultaneously in the two countries at the end of next week, Deputy Defense Minister Martin Bartak said on Friday.

Bartak said a delegation that would include him would leave for the Pentagon, while a U.S. negotiating team would fly to the Czech Republic.

The final part of consultations could be expected, he added.

Czech Defense Minister Vlasta Parkanova said Thursday that the SOFA treaty will be completed next month, only the details are being negotiated now.

Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek, who met with Parkanova on Thursday, said the Czech parliament may deal with the treaty in October.

The United States plans to build a radar base in the Czech Republic, along with an interceptor missile base in Poland, as part of its East European missile defense shield.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg signed the main treaty on the base in early July.

Russia is strongly opposed to the deployment of the system, saying it poses a threat to its national security. Czech opposition parties and some 70 percent of the country's citizens also oppose the project.

The radar treaties are yet to be ratified by the Czech parliament. It is not clear whether the government will muster enough votes for the treaty's ratification in parliament.

[Source: Xinhua, Prague, 29Aug08]

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