Mirek Topolanek, the Czech prime minister, and Jaroslaw Kaczynski, his Polish counterpart, indicated in Warsaw that they were ready to work out the conditions under which the US would put 10 interceptor missiles in Poland and a radar station in the Czech Republic.

Topolanek said: "We agreed that both countries will probably give a positive response to the US letter, and only then will we open negotiations.

"I think it is in our joint interest to negotiate this initiative and to build ... the missile defence," he said.
 
Interceptors

US officials say that the 10 proposed interceptors - designed to stop a launch from the Middle East - are not aimed at Russia.
 
"I think it is in our joint interest to negotiate this initiative and to build ... the missile defence"

Mirek Topolanek, Czech prime minister
Russia, with a large nuclear arsenal, could easily defeat such a small system simply by launching more than 10 missiles.
But Solovtsov, speaking at a news conference in Moscow that started just before the announcement in Warsaw, voiced concern that Washington could boost the number in the future.

He also said Russia could easily make new, upgraded versions of Russian missiles scrapped under the intermediate range nuclear forces (INF) treaty, negotiated 1987.

Kaczynski brushed aside Moscow's fears, saying "the missile defence is not directed against any normal state."

Russia reportedly sees the move as payback for their sales of air defence missiles to Iran and Syria, and as an attempt to bind Nato members Poland and the Czech Republic, more tightly into the military alliance.
 
Incoming warheads

Last month, Lieutenant General Henry Obering, director of the US missile defence agency, said the bases in Poland and the Czech Republic would be designed to intercept missiles being developed by Iran.

Two other bases - at Fort Greely, Alaska, and Vandenberg Air Force Base in California - would protect the US from threats from North Korea, Obering said.

Critics of the system say it has not adequately been tested to prove it works.
 
The interceptor missiles launch a small EKV, or exoatmospheric kill vehicle, designed to collide with an incoming warhead at high speed.

Obering has said that there was no way the limited number of interceptors could neutralise the hundreds of missiles at Russia's disposal.