Blair 'in Son of Star Wars deal'
From correspondents in London
October 17, 2004
PRIME Minister Tony Blair had secretly agreed to let the United States station interceptor missiles on British soil for the so-called "Son of Star Wars" defence system, it was reported today.
Britain had agreed "in principle" to a US request to site the missiles at an existing early warning radar centre in Fylingdales, Yorkshire, northern England, the Independent on Sunday said.
According to the paper, agreement was reached at a meeting last May in Washington attended by senior officials from the British embassy and the US State Department.
However, the British diplomats asked that no official announcement be made until after Mr Blair faced a general election likely in the middle of next year, the newspaper said, without citing its sources.
It was already known that the United States would use the early warning radar at Fylingdales for the new defence system, but nothing has been said publicly about missiles being stationed there.
Britain's Ministry of Defence said no decisions had been made.
"The UK has not yet decided whether we need our own missile defence. This is a decision for the future when the US system has further evolved," a spokesman said.
If Britain does accommodate the missiles, it could prompt difficulties for Mr Blair within his ruling Labour Party.
With many of his MPs already angry at the his backing for the US-led war in Iraq they might blanch at closer military ties with Washington.
"Son of Star Wars", designed to detect and then destroy incoming missiles through interceptor missiles, has been devised by the administration of US President George W. Bush.
It got its name from former president Ronald Reagan's planned Strategic Defence Initiative anti-missile system, dubbed "Star Wars" at the time.
The system has long been highly controversial, with critics warning it is both impractical and unfeasibly expensive, while the Bush administration remains strongly committed to the project.