US, Poland sign missile shield amendment in Clinton visit

The United States and Poland signed an amendment to a US missile shield deal during a visit by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for a high-level meeting Saturday in Krakow focusing on promoting democracy, dpa reported.

"This is purely a defensive system," Clinton told reporters.

"It is not directed at Russia," but instead defends the Polish people and all of Europe from missile threats, especially from Iran, Clinton said.

The amendment to the missile shield deal was signed by deputy Foreign Minister Jacek Najder and Lee Feinstein, the US ambassador in Poland. Clinton attended the signing along with Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski.

Sikorski said the amendment adopts the new proposed system of US President Barack Obama, and makes the system more versatile. The Foreign Ministry has said the amendment is technical and aims to incorporate changes made by Obama to the original 2008-signed deal.

Obama announced in September that the US would drop former president George W Bush's plans for a long-range system in favour of a short-and medium-range system to counter Iran's ballistic missile program.

Russia has criticized the plan, alleging that the system is aimed at its military arsenal.

Clinton was in Krakow to attend high-level meetings marking the 10th anniversary of the Community of Democracies, an international organization focused on promoting democracy.

The meeting included some 70 foreign delegations, and participants including former US secretary of state Madeleine Albright and Jerzy Buzek, president of the European Parliament. On the agenda was the current situation in eight nations, including Haiti, Iran and North Korea.

Clinton, in the event's keynote speech, said that the US joined Poland in mourning the victims of the plane crash in April that killed President Lech Kaczynski and 95 others.

She said the country continued to function after the tragedy, and that Poland will vote Sunday in fair and free elections. Clinton said that step was testament to Poland's political evolution.

Clinton began the visit in Krakow by laying a wreath at a memorial to the victims of Katyn, some 22,000 Polish officers murdered by the Soviet Red Army during World War II.

The ceremonies also paid tribute to the victims of the plane crash in Smolensk, Russia. Several families of Smolensk victims were in attendance as soldiers lay the wreath near Krakow's Wawel Royal Castle.

Clinton's tour included a visit to Schindler's Factory, a museum at the factory where German businessman Oskar Schindler saved hundreds of Jews during World War II. The historical event was popularized by the Steven Spielberg film "Schindler's List."

Clinton said that the Obama Administration will ask Congress to give 15 million dollars for the foundation.

Poland set up a foundation in January dedicated to help with needed conservation work at the former death camp. Several European nations have pledged some 67 million euros (84 million dollars) for that effort, including 60 million euros from Germany.