- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 17, 2009

PRAGUE (AP) - The Czech government postponed a parliamentary vote Tuesday on a deal to place a U.S. missile defense installation in the country.

Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek said the coalition government withdrew the item because it did not have enough votes to pass. The government does not have a majority in the 200-seat lower house, and several lawmakers it had been relying on for the vote were unable to attend the session, Topolanek said.

“It does not mean that we would give up the ratification process,” Topolanek said, suggesting the vote may be held after a NATO summit in April and negotiations with the new U.S. administration of President Barack Obama.

Obama, who is due to visit Prague on April 4-5 after the summit, has never said if the U.S. would go ahead with the deal, brokered under President George W. Bush, to build a radar base near Prague while placing 10 missile defense interceptors at another facility in neighboring Poland.

Washington has said the shield would protect Europe from attacks by “rogue states” in the Middle East.

Topolanek and Polish President Lech Kaczynski said they believed the U.S. would honor the agreement.

But Czech opposition parties and most of the population are against the missile defense plans, and Russia has vehemently opposed the prospect of U.S. military installations so close to its borders.

The Czech upper house has already approved the planned missile shield.

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