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Thursday, 7 February, 2002, 07:56 GMT
Straw warms to 'Star Wars' plan
Menwith Hill communication centre, near Harrogate
The US system will depend on British bases
Britain could be edging closer to supporting America's controversial "Son of Star Wars" missile defence plan, following a speech by Foreign Secretary Jack Straw.

Opponents of the National Missile Defence Plan, or NMD, fear the scheme could trigger an arms race, upset Russia and China and fail to protect the United States from most kinds of attack.

But Mr Straw, speaking in London, called for new thinking, adding that the system could actually deter dangerous states from acquiring long-range weapons.

He said it could prevent such states seeking to acquire long range missiles capable of attacking the West.

Target fears

The US plan to develop a defensive screen for the whole of the country, with the ability to track and destroy incoming ballistic missiles, depends on the use of early warning systems in Greece and the UK.

The BBC's Andrew Gilligan says Mr Straw's speech sounded like an attempt to clear the way for Britain's agreement to take part.

But he says ministers face opposition if they do agree, as some within government privately admit such a move could make the UK more of a target.

Former Labour defence minister Peter Kilfoyle has already accused the government of being "economical with the truth" over its support for NMD.

He described the system as one of the "biggest current threats to global stability" and attacked the UK government's "slavish support" for the US military.

See also:

16 Jan 02 | UK Politics
Son of Star Wars 'threatens stability'
10 Jan 02 | Europe
Russia attacks US missile plans
10 Jan 02 | Asia-Pacific
China rejects US missile report
15 Dec 01 | Media reports
US ABM decision 'Russia's failure'
03 Dec 01 | Americas
US missile shield test postponed
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