Clinton sees NATO deal on Turkey Patriot missiles

Mon Dec 3, 2012 4:08am EST
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By David Brunnstrom

PRAGUE (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton hopes NATO allies will reach a deal this week on stationing Patriot missiles in Turkey to defend against possible Syrian attacks, senior U.S. officials said.

The 28 NATO allies meet in Brussels on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Turkey, which has made a formal request to NATO to help it bolster its air defenses, is a big supporter of rebels fighting to oust Syria's President Bashar al-Assad.

It has repeatedly scrambled jets along the countries' joint border and responded in kind when shells from the conflict have landed inside Turkey, underlining fears Syria's 20-month-old revolt could spread to destabilize the region.

"We're all positively considering (the request)," a senior State Department official said, briefing reporters en route to Europe, where Clinton started a regional trip with a stop in Prague.

"(We) are hopeful that NATO will be in a position to respond positively ... and that the three contributing countries that are being considered - the United States, Germany and the Netherlands - will be in a position to also contribute."

The official said he did not expect final details this week on the numbers of missiles that would be deployed, or on where or for how long, as site surveys were still going on.

He also said it would also probably be "at least a matter of weeks" before deployment, as national decisions still had to be made and site surveys completed and agreed.   Continued...

Czech Republic's Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg (L) and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrive for a meeting in Prague December 3, 2012. Clinton will seek to convince Czech leaders of the advantages of picking U.S. firm Westinghouse over a Russian rival as the contractor for a $10 billion nuclear reactor project in meetings in Prague on Monday. REUTERS/David W Cerny