US missile defence chief warns of growing Iran threat
PRAGUE (AFP) - The head of the US missile defence agency, General Henry Obering, warned of a growing Iranian threat as he sought to convince Czech officials to play host to a US anti-missile shield.
Washington wants the Czech Republic and neighbouring Poland to site a detection radar and interceptor missiles on their territory to counter a possible attack from "rogue states" like Iran and North Korea.
The proposal has been strongly opposed by Russia.
Obering warned that Iran was cooperating with North Korea on developing its long range ballistic missile strike capability.
"We know they are collaborating," Obering told reporters following a meeting with Czech legislators.
"We have seen a pattern emerging in Iran that we have seen before. We saw the same pattern in North Korea in the 1990s," he said. "We saw them starting with very short range technology."
The general's visit to Prague came as US Defense Secretary Robert Gates was rebuffed on a Moscow trip aimed at overcoming Russia's fierce opposition to the extension of the missile shield into Central Europe.
Obering insisted there was still time to bring Russia round to the idea.
"I would not give up. This is going to take time," he said.
"We see Iran continuing to develop as they are. And I believe that wake up call will hit sooner or later and that we have to do something about this with the Russians as well," he added.
Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek argued that Moscow's fears were "irrational," stressing that the defence shield "cannot be and will not" be targeted at Russia.
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