US defense chief orders Patriot missiles to Turkey
INCIRLIK AIR BASE, Turkey (REUTERS) - US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta signed an order on Friday to send two Patriot missile batteries to Turkey with 400 American personnel to operate them, in a move by NATO members to bolster Turkey's defences against the threat of Syrian missiles.
The order was signed shortly before Panetta arrived on an unannounced visit to Turkey to meet American troops stationed at the Incirlik Air Base, the last stop on a week-long trip that took him to Afghanistan and Kuwait.
"The purpose of this deployment is to signal very strongly that the United States, working closely with our NATO allies, is going to support the defense of Turkey, especially with potential threats emanating from Syria," spokesman George Little said.
NATO-member Turkey has repeatedly scrambled jets along the countries' joint frontier and responded in kind when shells from the Syrian conflict came down inside its borders, fanning fears that the civil war could spread to destabilise the region.