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On Visit To Poland, Clinton Says Missile Shield 'Not Directed At Russia'

  • RFE/RL

In Krakow, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton lays a wreath at the monument to Polish officers murdered by Soviet forces in Katyn in 1940.

In Krakow, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton lays a wreath at the monument to Polish officers murdered by Soviet forces in Katyn in 1940.

The United States and Poland have signed a revised agreement to deploy elements of a missile-defense system in Central Europe, overriding Russia's objections.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton witnessed the signing of the deal today in the Polish city of Krakow, the second leg of her four-day trip to Ukraine, Poland, Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Georgia.

The revamped agreement takes into account changes brought in by U.S. President Barack Obama, who announced in September that Washington would drop the plans of his predecessor, George W. Bush, for a long-range system.

Instead, Obama's plan envisages a short- and medium-range system to counter Iran's ballistic missile program, as well as a small U.S. base in Poland.

In Krakow, Clinton and Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski exchange documents on the new missile-defense system.
Speaking at a joint news conference with Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski, Clinton said Washington remains deeply committed to Poland's security and sovereignty.

"Today, by signing an amendment to the ballistic missile-defense agreement, we are reinforcing this commitment. The amendment will allow us to move forward with Polish participation in hosting elements of the phased adaptive approach to missile defense in Europe," Clinton said. "It will help protect the Polish people and all of Europe -- our allies and others -- from evolving threats like that posed by Iran."

Despite the initial dismay sparked in Poland by Obama's decision to scrap the Bush-era missile plans, Sikorski insisted that his nation actually favors the new approach.

"When President Obama announced the new configuration of this sytem, we did say that we liked the new configuration better, but I think you didn't believe us," he said. "Now that we have signed the annex, I hope you do believe us."

Both Clinton and Sikorski sought to soothe Russian anger over the U.S. missile plans, which Moscow views as a threat to its national security.

"This is purely a defensive system," Clinton said. "It is not directed at Russia. It does not threaten Russia. It is a defensive system to protect our friends and allies, and our deployed forces."

At the news conference, the two countries also announced plans to cooperate on exploiting shale gas.

Clinton began her day in Krakow by laying a wreath at a memorial to the 20,000 Polish officers killed by Soviet forces in Katyn during World War II. She also paid her respects to late Polish President Lech Kaczynski and the 95 other people who died when the president's plane crashed on April 10 near the Russian city of Smolensk on its way to a memorial in honor of Katyn victims.

She will end her visit by giving a speech at celebrations marking the 10th anniversary of the founding of the Community of Democracies, a global network of democratic countries initiated by the United States and Poland. Participants include former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and European Parliament President Jerzy Buzek.

written by Claire Bigg, with agency reports