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NATO Missile Plan 'Bad for Turkey' - Iran

RIA Novosti

13:23 22/12/2012

MOSCOW, December 22 (RIA Novosti) - Tehran warned on Saturday that the deployment of NATO's advanced surface-to-air Patriot missiles along the Turkish border with Syria would be detrimental to Turkey.

"The deployment of Patriot missiles in Turkey will play no role in [ensuring] Turkey's security and will be harmful to Turkey," Iranian Defense Minister Brigadier General Ahmad Vahidi was quoted by Press TV as saying.

He criticized the West for always looking after its own interests.

"We are against the presence of Western countries in regional [programs]," Vahidi said.

Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said on Friday that Patriot missiles will be deployed near the southeastern cities of Adana, Gaziantep and Kahramanmaras.

Earlier this month NATO approved the deployment of Patriot air defense systems in Turkey as a way to prevent potential Syrian cross-border missile or mortar attacks.

Six NATO-controlled Patriot batteries are to be operational by the end of January 2013.

NATO member Turkey formally requested Patriot missiles from the military alliance after weeks of talks with NATO allies about how to shore up security on its 900-kilometer (560 mile) border with Syria.

Turkey has opened fire with artillery several times in recent months across its border with Syria in retaliation for shelling from Syria that killed five Turkish civilians in October. It has also provided shelter to refugees fleeing the violence in Syria, and has been one of President Bashar al-Assad's harshest critics during the almost 17-month revolt against his rule.

Tensions between Turkey and Syria flared dangerously this summer after Damascus shot down a Turkish fighter that had violated its airspace. Turkey threatened retaliation if there was any repeat of the incident, although it admitted its plane had mistakenly strayed into Syrian airspace.

Russia has repeatedly voiced concern about plans to deploy Patriot missiles on Turkey's border with Syria, although Moscow avoided directly criticizing Turkey.

The UN has estimated that nearly 40,000 have died since the violence began in March 2011.

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