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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Obama Says U.S. Will Pursue Missile Shield Because of Iran

PRAGUE -- The United States will continue developing anti-missile defenses as long as an Iranian nuclear threat persists, U.S. President Barack Obama said Sunday.

Obama's administration had been cool on a deal reached by his predecessor, George W. Bush, to put radar in the Czech Republic and interceptor rockets in Poland to shoot down missiles fired by countries like Iran. Russia is strongly opposed to the plan.

But during a visit to the Czech capital on Sunday, Obama said Washington would continue with the plan as long as Iran was developing its nuclear program.

"As long as the threat from Iran persists, we will go forward with the missile system," Obama said in a speech. "If the Iranian threat is eliminated, we will have a stronger basis for security, and the driving force for missile construction in Europe will be removed."

The Czechs and Poles have signed treaties with Washington on the missile defense plan, angering Russia.

A majority of Czechs oppose the missile defense plan, and the Socialist opposition says it will make the country a target rather than protect it.

But the outgoing Czech government has made the plan a priority and says it is key to countering Russia's continued influence in the European Union's eastern wing.

The Czech Foreign Ministry said the U.S. comments confirmed its belief that the missile defense plan was needed.

Moscow has accused the United States of trying to meddle in its former sphere of influence. It has threatened to point nuclear weapons at Prague and Warsaw and to station missiles in its European enclave Kaliningrad.