US defense chief says Lithuania could serve as site of missile defense base

Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Tuesday the Baltic state of Lithuania would be a "good alternative" to Poland as the site for a US missile defense base should negotiations with the Poles fail. In talks at military headquarters in the Pentagon, Gates told Prime Minister Gediminas Kirkilas that the Bush administration's preference is to work out a deal with fellow NATO ally Poland, according to Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell. The negotiations over a base hosting 10 missile interceptors have bogged down in a dispute over the extent of US aid would be provided the Polish military. "The Lithuanian prime minister indicated that his government was willing to consider hosting the interceptors, and for that the secretary expressed his appreciation," Morrell said. "Our position remains the same: our preference is to work out a deal with the Poles. But prudent planning requires that we simultaneously look at backups, if necessary. Lithuania would geographically serve as a good alternative."