WASHINGTON — US President Barack Obama Tuesday held unscheduled talks with Romania's President Traian Basescu, to seal a newly signed accord which will bring US missile interceptors to Romanian territory.
Basescu had a scheduled meeting with Vice President Joe Biden in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, but Obama stopped by and ushered him into the nearby Oval Office, the White House said.
"The President noted the close alliance between the United States and Romania, and thanked President Basescu for his strong partnership," the White House said in a statement.
"The President congratulated President Basescu on the US-Romania Ballistic Missile Defense Agreement, which exemplifies the President's commitment to strengthening NATO and ensuring allies have the capabilities to meet 21st century threats," the White House said.
The agreement, signed earlier at the State Department, allows the establishment and operation of a US land-based ballistic missile defense (BMD) system in Romania as part of NATO's efforts to build a continental missile shield.
The deployment is expected to take place in 2015 at a former airbase in southern Romania.
The United States originally planned to install its anti-missile shield in Poland and neighboring Czech Republic, aimed at countering Iran.
But that plan, which angered Russia after it saw itself as the target for the shield system, was scrapped by Obama in September 2009.
The deployment of the US European-based Phased, Adaptive Approach for Missile Defense (EPAA) system started with the presence since March in the Mediterranean of a guided missile cruiser equipped with Aegis radar.
The second phase is to include the deployment of 24 SM3-type interceptors in Romania, followed in 2018 by a similar deployment in Poland.
Obama and Basescu also discussed the "important role that Romania can play in supporting and advancing democracy, both in Europe and in the Middle East in the wake of the Arab Spring," the White House said.
During a trip to Europe in May, Obama several held up post-Soviet European states like Romania as examples for Arab states that had cast of autocratic rulers and started the long march towards democracy.