Thursday, October 22, 2009

Biden arrives in Romania on east European tour


BUCHAREST — US Vice President Joe Biden arrived in Romania Wednesday after a one-day visit to Warsaw where he secured Poland's approval for a new US anti-missile system.

Biden's plane touched down at Bucharest airport at 8:30 pm (173O GMT), according to an AFP photographer.

Bucharest is the second leg of a three-nation east European tour also including the Czech Republic, aimed at reaffirming the US partnership with the countries in the region.

The trip comes a month after Washington shelved a Bush-era missile shield, prompting Czech and Polish media to accuse President Barack Obama of "treachery" and selling out to Moscow.

Romanian President Traian Basescu said Biden would "make a particularly important speech on Washington's policies in the region," without specifying and refused to spell out the agenda for their talks on Thursday.

He said on state television that they would discuss "subjects which are of great interest for Romania."

US officials denied however Biden was on a mission to pacify US partners upset over the decision to ditch the shield.

The Bush administration said the shield was designed to ward off potential attacks by so-called "rogue" states, namely Iran, but Russia slammed it as a threat to its national security.

But Obama said that after a rethink, and the realisation that Iran was developing its own missiles more slowly than anticipated, his administration was opting for a more flexible system.

Romania, which was not covered by the first antimissile defense system, welcomed the new plan.

"The new system protects the whole of the Romanian territory against possible missile attacks and this is very important," Bogdan Aurescu, a Romanian foreign ministry official, said.

In Bucharest, Biden is due on Thursday to meet Basescu and Prime Minister Emil Boc before delivering a key speech on relations between the US and central Europe.

Biden will leave Bucharest on Thursday evening heading for Prague.

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