Friday, February 23, 2007

From the BBC

UK-US in talks on missile defence
US missile test in 2000
The US has had mixed results from its missile tests
The UK and US have held high level talks on the possibility of putting a "Son of Star Wars" anti-ballistic missile defence system on British soil.

An article in The Economist claims Prime Minister Tony Blair has lobbied President George Bush for the system.

But government sources have told the BBC that talks are "to keep Britain's options open", not a lobbying effort.

Russia has said the system, which tracks and destroys missiles launched at the US, will trigger an arms race.

Poland and the Czech Republic have both been approached by America about locating part of the hugely expensive system on their soil.

Secret talks

BBC Defence Correspondent Paul Wood said he had confirmed "secret high-level negotiations" had been taking place.

Talks were continuing between the National Security Council and Britain's top foreign affairs adviser Sir Nigel Sheinwald, he said.

But Downing Street has said talks are at a very early stage, and were intended only to keep Britain in consideration as plans were developed.

Missile defence graphic

David Rennie, from the Economist, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme his understanding was that Mr Blair had "personally led" efforts for silos to be based in the UK, believing it would make Britain safer.

The system uses radar and satellites to detect enemy missile launches and to guide interceptors to their targets.

Shadow defence secretary Liam Fox said the Conservatives would not oppose locating part of the system in the UK, but wanted to examine it in detail.

'Get honest'

"We have had no details at all from the government despite asking a lot of questions in Parliament.

"If the government really do want to maintain what they regard as a bipartisan approach to defence in this country, they better start getting honest with the opposition," said Mr Fox.

Poland has recently confirmed the US wants to use its territory to build part of its missile defence base.

Even if it did work, it would be tackling the wrong problem at the wrong time
Paul Ingram
British American Security Information Council

The US has also asked permission from the Czech Republic and received the backing of Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek.

In 2002, the US withdrew from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty it signed with the Soviet Union.

It says a missile defence system could significantly reduce threats from so-called "rogue states" such as Iran and North Korea.

HAVE YOUR SAY
Missile defence systems like these are already obsolete and incapable of intercepting modern missiles
Tom, Reading

But Paul Ingram, of the British American Security Information Council, said the success of the system was "a long way from being proven".

"Even if it did work, it would be tackling the wrong problem at the wrong time," he told the BBC.

"The proliferation of ballistic missile technology is not as racing away as we are being led to believe. It has no relevance at all when it comes to issues like the war on terror."



* * * *

Anger over NY 'immigration game'
Washington Square Park
Washington Square Park in New York is the venue for the game
A Republican student group in New York has sparked claims of racism by organising a game called "Find the Illegal Immigrant".

Students will act as immigration officers in Thursday's game and try to find a student in a crowd designated with a badge as the illegal immigrant.

The game has sparked protests from other students with hundreds planning to demonstrate against it.

The New York University College Republican club denied it was racist.

It says the game is intended to raise awareness on immigration issues in the United States.

The winner of the game will take home a gift certificate.

Picketing

The game is scheduled for New York's Washington Square Park.

College Republican campaign chairman David Laska told the New York Daily News: "Is it politically correct? No. But is it racist? Absolutely not.

"You have to do something like this to get people's attention."

College Republican President Sarah Chambers added: "Just because we don't want illegal immigrants being able to completely disregard the laws of our country doesn't make us racist."

The Daily News said up to 600 students were expected to protest.

One message on the website where details of the game were given read: "Let's not be lazy; instead, let's be just as organised as they are and bring out as many protesters as possible. Bring banners, voice boxes, picket signs."

Illegal immigration has remained a key issue at all levels of society.

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