NATO AGREES TO DEPLOY PATRIOT MISSILES IN TURKEY

London Telegraph on December 4, 2012, reported that Nato has agreed to deploy Patriot missiles to defend Turkey as Britain warned Syria of “serious consequences” if the regime were to use chemical weapons. Excerpts below:

Arriving for a Nato foreign ministers’ meeting in Brussels, William Hague, the foreign secretary, said that Britain had delivered a stark message to President Bashar al-Assad, echoing the words of the Obama administration .

“We are worried about chemical weapons,” said Mr Hague. “We have become more concerned about them in recent days for the same reasons the US has. We have already sent our own, clear, private message directly to the Syrians about the serious consequences that would follow from the use of those weapons.”

Britain conveyed its message through diplomatic channels, but officials declined to go into details. The US administration is believed to have satellite images showing the movement of essential materials for chemical weapons.

The Assad regime is known to possess sarin nerve gas, which is made from four or five “precursor” chemicals which would normally be kept in separate installations. Western governments will be looking for evidence of these materials being moved into a single facility, said Dina Esfandiary, an expert on Syria’s weapons of mass destruction at the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

If the precursors were brought together in the same plant, the army would be preparing sarin gas for use, said Ms Esfandiary, adding: “There really isn’t another plausible explanation”.

Riad Kahwaji, the head of the Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis, said that suspicious movements had been detected in the last few days.

Turkey has asked Nato to deploy batteries of Patriot missiles to protect its southern border with Syria…Turkey’s request is believed to have come after intelligence assessments concluded that Mr Assad’s regime, now under severe pressure from the rebel Free Syrian Army which has penetrated Damascus itself, could resort to firing its arsenal of Scud ballistic missiles at neighbouring states. In extremis, these weapons could be equipped with chemical warheads.

“We know that Syria possesses missiles. We know they have chemical weapons and this is also the reason why it is necessary to ensure effective defence and protection of our ally Turkey,” said Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the Nato secretary-general.

But Nato officials stressed the defensive purpose of deploying the Patriots, stressing they would not be used to enforce a no-fly zone over Syrian territory. “The purpose is to protect the Turkish population and territory against missile attacks,” said Mr Rasmussen. “Any deployment would be defensive only. It would in no way support a no-fly zone or any offensive operation.”

The Patriot missiles will be supplied by Germany, Holland and the US. About six batteries, protected by between 300 and 400 troops, would be deployed in the New Year.

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