Polish support for U.S. missile shield seen rising

13:16, 18 August 2008
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A survey showed on Monday

Support among Poles for hosting elements of a U.S. missile shield on their territory has increased despite strong opposition from Russia, a survey showed on Monday.

Last week Poland and the United States signed a preliminary deal on installing 10 ground-based interceptors on Polish soil in a move coinciding with Russian military moves against Georgia that have badly strained ties between Moscow and the West.

About 50 percent of Poles now support installing the interceptors and only 37 percent are against, said a GFK Polonia survey conducted on August 16 and published by the Rzeczpospolita daily.

Previous surveys had shown a majority of Poles opposed to the plan, which Russia has long opposed as a direct threat to its own national security.

The survey showed 77 percent of Poles believed the agreement on the shield would further worsen Poland`s relations with Russia, its biggest neighbour and communist-era overlord.

A top Russian general was quoted as saying last week that the Polish-U.S. deal laid Poland`s territory open to a possible military strike. U.S. Defence Secretary Robert Gates on Sunday dismissed the Russian threats as "empty rhetoric".

The deal between Warsaw and Washington on the shield came after Washington agreed to a Polish demand to boost the country`s air defences and followed many months of negotiations.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is expected to visit Warsaw this week to sign the accord. The shield plan also envisages a radar facility in the Czech Republic.

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