US to send Patriot missiles, troops to Turkey
The US Friday gave the go-ahead to deploy Patriot anti-ballistic missiles in Turkey along with troops to operate them as the embattled government in neighbouring Syria again denied firing ballistic missiles at rebels, CNN reported.
The US has accused Damascus of launching Scud-type artillery from the capital at rebels in the country's north. One Washington official said missiles came close to the border of Turkey, a NATO member and staunch US ally.
Syria's government called the accusations "untrue rumours" Friday, according to state news agency SANA.
Damascus accused Turkey and its partners of instigating rumours to make the government look bad internationally.
US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta signed the order while en route to Turkey to send two Patriot missile batteries and 400 US troops to operate them.
The surface-to-air interceptors will help in "dealing with threats that come out of Syria", Panetta said after landing at the Incirlik Air Base, a US Air Force installation about 130 km from Syria's border, CNN said.
Panetta was unconcerned about possible reactions from Damascus to the Patriot deployment. "We can't spend a lot of time worrying about whether that pisses off Syria," he said, adamant that helping Turkey was the priority.
Asked what the response might be if Syria deployed chemical weapons, Panetta said the US military had "drawn up plans" but that "it's not easy" to defend against them.
Germany and the Netherlands have shown willingness to add two Patriot batteries each from their countries, NATO said Friday, to defend Turkey.