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NATO decides to deploy Patriot missiles in Turkey

The NATO Military Alliance has agreed to a Turkish request and will station several Patriot Anti-Missile batteries along its border with Syria. ITN's John Irvine reports.

Updated at 1:35 p.m. ET: NATO foreign ministers on Tuesday gave the go-ahead to deploy Patriot surface-to-missiles in Turkey in order to protect from any spillover from the civil war in neighboring Syria.

"We stand with Turkey in the spirit of strong solidarity and we stand ready to take the necessary steps for the defense of Turkey," NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, said after the decision.

The move could calm Turkey's fears that it could come under missile attack - possibly with chemical weapons - from Syria. 

"The NATO ministers unanimously expressed grave concern about reports that the Syrian regime may be considering the use of chemical weapons," Rasmussen told a news conference. "Any such action would be completely unacceptable and a clear breach of international law."

The 28-nation alliance gathered in Brussels for a twice-yearly meeting, sending a strong signal that it stands behind Turkey, a NATO member, diplomats told Reuters.

"NATO has decided to augment Turkey's air defense capabilities in order to defend the population and territory of Turkey and contribute to the de-escalation of the crisis along the Alliance's border," a statement from NATO foreign ministers on Tuesday said.


Turkey asked NATO last month for Patriots, which can be used to intercept missiles and planes, after weeks of talks with allies about how to increase security on its 560-mile border with Syria, which is immersed in civil war.

The move follows media reports, citing European and U.S. officials, that Syria's chemical weapons had been moved and could be prepared for use in response to dramatic gains by rebels fighting to topple President Bashar Assad.

President Obama made clear to Syrian President Bashar Assad and those under his command that "the world is watching" and the use of chemical weapons would be "totally unacceptable." If Syria does try to use those weapons, Obama added, there will be consequences. NBC's Andrea Mitchell reports.

Obama warns Syria's Assad not to use chemical weapons

Syria said on Monday it would not use chemical weapons against its own people after the United States warned it could take action against any such escalation.

"Turkey's request, when it came to Patriots, was to augment its air defenses with the capacity to deal with the threat of ballistic missiles and particularly the threat of ballistic missiles potentially armed with chemical warheads," another NATO diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity, said, according to Reuters.

Osman Orsal / Reuters

A look back at the violence that has overtaken the country

The United States, Germany and the Netherlands are the countries expected to supply Turkey with Patriots. Germany and the Netherlands may need parliamentary approval to send the missiles and deployment could take weeks.

Report: Syrian rebels clash with Lebanon troops on border

The first diplomat said that NATO's Supreme Allied Commander Europe, U.S. Admiral James Stavridis, had the power to deploy NATO's own fleet of AWACS surveillance planes if he judged it necessary to counter a specific threat and would not need ministerial approval.

However, there is no immediate plan for him to do so in the case of Turkey.

A dramatic report from northern Syria shows how rebels control much of the countryside but remain locked in deadly battle with government forces who have the fire power. Some displaced civilians have taken refuge in the ruins of one of the Dead Cities of Syria, the ancient city Serjilla, abandoned around 1600 AD. NBC's John Irvine reports.

PhotoBlog: Turkey scrambles jets as Syrian government forces bomb border town

Turkey has repeatedly scrambled jets along the countries' joint border and responded in kind when shells from the conflict came down inside its borders, underlining fears Syria's civil war could spread to destabilize the region.

A senior State Department official accompanying Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to Europe for the NATO talks, said he did not expect final details this week on the number of missiles that would be deployed, where or for how long.

He said the deployment would not be part of "an inexorable move towards a no-fly zone" over Syria, of the sort NATO mounted to defend anti-government rebels in Libya who toppled Moammar Gadhafi last year.

The Patriot system, according to chief contractor Raytheon, is the world's most advanced missile defense system, capable of shooting down aircraft, ballistic missiles, cruise missiles and drones. Its first test came in the 1991 Gulf War and has been upgraded many times since. It is currently deployed in the U.S., Netherlands, Germany, Japan, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Taiwan, Greece, Spain, Korea and the United Arab Emirates. 

Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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