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NATO scouts missile sites near Turkey-Syria border

NATO officials are in Turkey to plan a proposed Patriot missile deployment. Turkey has said putting the missiles along its border is a "purely defensive" move to protect against spill-over Syrian civil war violence.

A delegation of German, Dutch and US officials met in Turkey Tuesday, a Turkish diplomat told the DPA news agency.

Turkey had officially asked NATO last week to station the missiles along its border with Syria, which is currently engaged in a civil war. NATO is expected to give a formal decision next week.

'Purely defensive'

The missiles, Turkey said, would be "purely defensive," and would not lead to the creation of a no-fly zone over Syria. Germany considered those two elements to be the most important conditions for participating in the mission.

Syrian rebel forces have called for the establishment of an internationally-enforced no-fly zone over Syria as a defense against Syrian military airstrikes. Many foreign governments are opposed to the idea for fear of becoming involved in the ongoing conflict.

According to Turkish sources, said DPA, around 30 experts from Germany, the Netherlands and the US had traveled to Turkey. They met with members of the Turkish Joint Chiefs of Staff before heading to the southeast of the country, near the Syrian border.

Locations in the southeast province of Hatay, as well as the eastern provinces of Gaziantep and Sanliurfa are being considered for the rockets. The experts are reportedly exploring the logistical and security needs of the potential sites.

Considering infrastructure

The experts are not only taking into consideration potential threats from Syria, but also infrastructure, including roads, power and accommodation for the expected NATO force of approximately 170 troops that would be deployed to man the rockets.

Within NATO, only Germany, the Netherlands and the US have Patriot missile capability. The German Bundestag is expected to decide in December whether to send troops to the Turkish-Syrian border.

Syria resumed air strikes on targets near the Turkish border on Monday. According to Turkish reports, a Free Syrian Army command position adjacent to Hatay Province was bombed, while attacks continued Tuesday just a few hundred meters from Turkish territory.

dr/hc (dpa, AFP, Reuters)