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NATO: Patriots online in Turkey by weekend

Jan. 24, 2013 at 12:28 PM

BRUSSELS, Jan. 24 (UPI) -- Patriot missile defense systems deployed along the Turkish border with Syria should have an initial operating capacity by the weekend, NATO said.

Germany, the Netherlands and the United States responded to a Turkish request to NATO Dec. 4 for military support to help defend against the Syrian civil war. Conflict in the Syria has spilled over the Turkish border at times.

British Brig. Gen. Gary Deakin, director of a crisis center for Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe, told reporters from Brussels that Patriot batteries were within days of becoming operational.

"We expect to have an initial operating capability this weekend," he said.

NATO forces in 2011 intervened in the Libyan civil war on grounds that civilians there needed protection from forces loyal to Moammar Gadhafi. Intervention was supported by a U.N. Security Council resolution authorizing the use of force, something lacking in regards to the Syrian civil war.

NATO leaders have stressed the deployment of Patriot batteries along the Turkish border with Syria were for defensive purposes only. There are no plans, said Deakin, for a no-fly zone over Syria.

"The deployment of the Patriots will be defensive only, but it sends a very strong signal of Allied solidarity," said NATO spokeswoman Oana Lungescu.

The United Nations estimates at least 60,000 people have died as a result of Syrian conflict that began in early 2011.

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