Poland Says Deal With U.S. Close

WARSAW -- Poland expects to clinch a deal with the United States in February to host U.S. missiles as part of a defensive shield in Europe, Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski said Tuesday.

The shield, which Washington says would protect the United States and its European allies from so-called rogue states, has strained ties between Poland and Russia, which argues the missile system would undermine its security.

Poland's new center-right government wants deeper security links with the United States and would like Washington to boost its air defenses with new short- and medium-range systems in exchange for cooperation.

Sikorski said in a radio interview that he expected a breakthrough during talks between Prime Minister Donald Tusk and President George W. Bush in Washington next month, not at an earlier meeting between the Polish foreign minister and U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Feb. 1.

The Bush administration wants to locate 10 interceptor missiles in Poland under a $3.5 billion defense plan.

Polish Defense Minister Bogdan Klich said in an interview before a visit to Washington this month that Poland would not participate in the project unless the United States helped bolster the country's air defenses.

During a Monday visit by Sikorski to Moscow, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the Kremlin would not try to pressure Poland about the missile shield, part of joint efforts to mend relations.