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Former Czech FM Says Missile Defense Nixed For Russian Support

Former Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg (file photo)
PRAGUE -- Former Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg says a main reason for the U.S. decision to cancel the missile-shield plan in Central Europe was to "secure some help from Russia" in dealing with Iran's controversial nuclear program.

Schwarzenberg told RFE/RL's Belarus Service in an exclusive interview that it would have been good to have "some American military presence in our area." He said the Czech Republic must now place its trust "in other members of NATO and in the European Union," but added that in a "serious crisis the Americans will be reliable allies."

Schwarzenberg said he doesn't think his country's security is "so much endangered" by the September 17 decision by the administration of President Barack Obama to cancel the missile-shield plan.

The plan would have established an anti-missile radar site in the Czech Republic and put 10 interceptor missiles in Poland to defend against a missile attack from a rogue state such as Iran. Moscow strongly protested the missile plan, arguing that it was aimed against Russian interests.

Schwarzenberg told RFE/RL that Obama's adminstration wants to improve its relations with Russia "because [Washington and Moscow] have many problems which they should solve together."

He denied that the U.S. decision was a "sellout of Europe," but said it shows that Washington now has greater interests in other parts of the world, namely in the Middle East, Iran, and the Persian Gulf.

Schwarzenberg, a member of the Czech Senate, served as foreign minister from 2007-09.