NATO on Friday charged that the Syrian army had fired ballistic missiles that struck territory not far from Turkey in defending its decision to deploy air defenses and military personnel along the Turkish-Syrian border, Reuters reported.
NATO military chief Adm. James Stavridis in a web post said: "Over the past few days a handful of Scud missiles were launched inside Syria, directed by the [Bashar Assad] regime against opposition targets. Several landed fairly close to the Turkish border, which is very worrisome."
It is not apparent how near the missiles landed to Turkey. Damascus insists it has not introduced Scud missiles into the 21-month struggle by armed rebels to overthrow the long-ruling dictatorship.
NATO members United States, the Netherlands, and Germany have each approved deployment to Turkey of two Patriot antimissile batteries and hundreds of accompanying troops. The missiles are anticipated to be active by the end of January. The Western military alliance is particularly focused on protecting Turkey from ballistic missiles that could be armed with Syrian chemical warheads.
Iranian army chief of staff Gen. Hassan Firouzabadi, on Saturday lashed NATO for its Patriot deployment plans, Reuters separately reported. "Each one of these Patriots is a black mark on the world map, and is meant to cause a world war," the general said in an Iranian Students' News Agency report. Tehran is one of the few governments to maintain friendly relations with the Assad regime.
"I completely denounce these (Iranian) allegations. We have made clear right from the outset that the deployment of Patriots is a purely defensive measure," Reuters quoted NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen as saying on Monday in response to the Iranian comments. "We are there to defend and protect our ally Turkey. We have no offensive intentions whatsoever."
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Monday was reported to have called off a planned trip to Turkey, the Associated Press reported.. It was not immediately clear if the cancellation was a response to Turkey's efforts to get Patriot missile support.