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European edition, Friday, July 27, 2007

RAF MILDENHALL, England — One of the most secretive U.S. military installations in Europe is set to host part of America’s controversial missile defense system.

During a Wednesday speech to Parliament, British Defence Secretary Des Browne named RAF Menwith Hill as the British military site to host the missile defense system despite parliamentary protests it could ignite “a new nuclear arms race.”

Browne said the Ministry of Defence has agreed to a U.S. request to use RAF Menwith Hill, a 560-acre Yorkshire facility home to both the U.S. Air Force’s 451st Intelligence Squadron as well as a National Security Agency eavesdropping station.

The MOD stressed that Britain will not host any interceptor missiles.

“The work at RAF Menwith Hill will both support the existing joint U.K.-U.S. missile warning mission and also enable satellite data to be passed into the new U.S. missile defence system,” stated an MOD press release on the move.

Air Force officials with information on the missile defense system did not return calls for comment on Thursday afternoon.

There is opposition in Parliament and the British public to the move.

Earlier this year, Member of Parliament Jeremy Corbyn proposed a motion against hosting the missile defense system, asserting it “will encourage a new nuclear arms race” and “put the U.K. in the front line in future wars.”

The defence ministry, meanwhile, released late Wednesday a section of Browne’s speech.

“Missile defence systems are just that — defensive. They are not for offensive use and by supporting American efforts in this area, both through scientific cooperation and by allowing the use of facilities in the U.K., we are helping to build future protection for our citizens,” he said in the release.

“The U.K. will continue to work bilaterally with the U.S. and with NATO allies to explore the possibilities of a NATO missile defence system that could build on U.S. efforts in this area.”

The MOD said the basic infrastructure for the system is already in place.

“The installation of communications hardware is the only additional work required,” the MOD release stated. “This will take place inside an existing building. The data provided by equipment at both sites is shared between the Ministry of Defence and U.S. military authorities.”

The MOD also said a U.S.-financed radar upgrade to RAF Fylingdales is complete. RAF Fylingdales is a 45-year-old ballistic missile warning site run cooperatively by the U.S. and the U.K., according to a British Broadcasting Corp. report.

News of RAF Menwith Hill hosting the missile defense system drew immediate criticism from a host of British peace advocacy organizations, including the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament which plans to host a Sept. 1 conference in London to galvanize opposition to the missile defense system.

“This is a system that will lead to an escalation of global tensions and it will place Britain on the front line,” said CND spokesman Ben Soffa.

American plans to install part of the missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic have drawn rebukes from Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has put forth alternative plans for the U.S. to use a former Soviet military site in Azerbaijan.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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