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NATO: Turkey wants use of Patriot missiles

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A file photo.

BRUSSLES (AP): Turkey's government requested the deployment of NATO's Patriot surface-to-air missiles on Wednesday to bolster its defences along its border with Syria and prevent a spillover of the civil war in that nation, officials said.

NATO doesn't want to be drawn into the Syrian conflict and said it would consider deploying the missiles purely to protect Turkey, a member country. Any deployment of NATO forces needs the approval of the alliance's governing body, the North Atlantic Council.

But this is seen as a formality since NATO has already said it has plans in place to protect Turkey from a spillover of Syria's civil war.

"Allies will discuss this without delay," NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said on Twitter. In a separate statement, he said the deployment would augment alliance member Turkey's air defence capabilities and "would contribute to the de-escalation of the crisis along NATO's southeastern border."

The ambassadors of the 28 member states that make up the top council were expected to hold initial informal consultations later today.

Fogh Rasmussen said a joint team would visit Turkey next week to conduct a site survey for the possible deployment of the US-built Patriots. He also noted that the deployment would not mean imposing a no-fly zone over Syrian territory, a key demand of Syrian opposition groups.

NATO allies installed the long-range Patriot batteries on Turkish territory twice before, during the 1991 and 2003 Iraq wars. They were never used and were quietly withdrawn a few months later.

In Ankara, Turkey's government said in a statement that "in face of the threats and risks posed to our national security by the ongoing crisis in Syria ... it has been decided to formally request from NATO that our national air defence be reinforced with the support of allied air defence elements."

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said he had told the German ambassador to Turkey "to receive positively such a request." Westerwelle says "it would be a serious mistake if we were to refuse defensive support to a NATO member country in a moment when this member country feels that it is exposed to attacks from outside."

Tags:

NATO  Turkey  Patriot  Missile  
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