Officials: NATO to decide on missiles for Turkey

  • Article by: SLOBODAN LEKIC
  • Associated Press
  • December 4, 2012 - 3:34 AM

BRUSSELS - NATO foreign ministers are expected to approve Turkey's request for Patriot anti-missile systems to bolster its defense against possible strikes from neighboring Syria, officials said Tuesday.

Ankara, which has been highly supportive of the Syrian opposition to President Bashar Assad's regime, wants the Patriots to defend against possible retaliatory attacks by Syrian missiles carrying chemical warheads. Syria is reported to have an array of artillery rockets, as well as short- and medium-range missiles in its arsenal — some capable of carrying chemical warheads.

NATO leaders have repeatedly said they would provide any assistance Turkey needs.

The ministers are meeting on Tuesday and Wednesday in Brussels. Germany and the Netherlands are expected to provide several batteries of the latest PAC-3 version of the U.S.-built Patriots air defense systems which is optimized to intercept incoming missiles.

The exact details of the deployment and the number of batteries to be sent will be determined by NATO's military committee based on a report by a joint team that has been studying possible basing sites.

Parliaments in both Germany and the Netherlands must approve the move, which would also involve several hundred soldiers.

German ambassador Martin Erdmann said the decision to deploy would likely be made Tuesday, adding that the Bundestag will probably take up the matter next week.

NATO foreign ministers will also meet with their Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov. Russia has criticized the planned deployment of the Patriots saying that it would further inflame tensions in the region.

U.S. officials say the White House and its allies are weighing military options to secure Syria's chemical and biological weapons, after U.S. intelligence reports showed the Syrian regime may be readying those weapons and may be desperate enough to use them.

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