Turkey set to deploy Patriot missiles on Syrian border
Turkish request to Nato comes as fears grow of Assad using chemical weapons
NATO leaders were expected to approve Turkey's request to deploy Patriot missiles along its border with Syria today as fears grow over the possible use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime.
Turkey, which has been supportive of the Syrian opposition during the 21-month conflict, wants the missiles to defend itself against possible retaliation from Damascus. The Times says Ankara fears the Syrian regime could use "missiles carrying chemical warheads".
Patriot can be used to take down aircraft and ballistic missiles, reports Jonathan Marcus of the BBC, but he adds that a Nato deployment would be purely defensive.
"While Patriot can reach into Syrian airspace, Nato is at pains to stress that this is in no sense a step towards establishing a no-fly zone over Syria. Nonetheless, Nato may also hope that there will be a deterrent effect that may dissuade Syria from operating its aircraft too close to the Turkish frontier."
The move coincides with a series of verbal shots across Syria's bow concerning the use of chemical weapons and rumours that Western intervention is now on the cards.
Before a meeting of its 28 member states in Brussels, Nato secretary general Anders Fogh Rasmussen backed up an earlier warning from US President Barack Obama and said the use of chemical weapons in the Syrian civil war would be "completely unacceptable" and warned of an "immediate reaction from the international community".
Yesterday Obama warned of "consequences" if Assad used chemical weapons against the Syrian people.
Middle East correspondent Richard Spencer told The Daily Telegraph that the civil war appeared to have reached some sort of "turning point" but added that if Assad resorted to using chemical weapons it was likely to "trigger some sort of Western intervention".
On Monday CNN said the US had "obtained intelligence" that Syrian forces had begun mixing chemicals that could be used to make the nerve agent, sarin.