* Turkey wants to bolster missile defences - diplomat
* Defences to also protect against chemical weapons
* Deploying missiles could take weeks
BRUSSELS, Dec 4 (Reuters) - NATO foreign ministers will
agree on Tuesday to send Patriot missiles to beef up Turkey's
air defences and calm Turkey's fears that it could come under
missile attack, possibly with chemical weapons, from Syria,
Turkey last month asked NATO for Patriots, which can be used
to intercept missiles and planes, after weeks of talks with
allies about how to shore up security on its 900-km (560-mile)
border with Syria, which is immersed in civil war.
Foreign ministers from the 28-nation alliance are expected
to give their backing to the move when they meet in Brussels for
a twice-yearly meeting, sending a strong signal they stand
behind their ally Turkey.
"There will be a decision and probably a statement from the
ministers themselves," a NATO diplomat told reporters.
The move follows media reports, citing European and U.S.
officials, that Syria's chemical weapons had been moved and
could be prepared for use in response to dramatic gains by
rebels fighting to topple President Bashar al-Assad.
Syria said on Monday it would not use chemical weapons
against its own people after the United States warned it could
take action against any such escalation.
"Turkey's request, when it came to Patriots, was to augment
its air defences with the capacity to deal with the threat of
ballistic missiles and particularly the threat of ballistic
missiles potentially armed with chemical warheads," another NATO
diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity, said.
The diplomat said the ministers would simply agree on
Tuesday to "augment Turkey's air defences".
"The decision on whether or not to deploy Patriots, and for
how long is, like all NATO decisions when it comes to the
deployment of military forces, a national one," he said.
The United States, Germany and the Netherlands are the
countries expected to supply Turkey with Patriots. Germany and
the Netherlands may need parliamentary approval to send the
missiles and deployment could take weeks.
The first diplomat said that NATO's Supreme Allied Commander
Europe, U.S. Admiral James Stavridis, had the power to deploy
NATO's own fleet of AWACS surveillance planes if he judged it
necessary to counter a specific threat and would not need
However, there is no immediate plan for him to do so in the
case of Turkey.
The NATO foreign ministers will take the Patriot decision
immediately after they hold talks in Brussels with Russian
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who is expected to repeat
Moscow's opposition to the move.
Russia, which has a fractious relationship with the military
alliance, has been at odds with NATO over how to end the Syrian
conflict and has vetoed U.N. resolutions aimed at pressuring
Assad to step down.
Turkey repeatedly has scrambled jets along the countries'
joint border and responded in kind when shells from the conflict
came down inside its borders, underlining fears Syria's civil
war could spread to destabilise the region.
A senior State Department official accompanying U.S.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to Europe for the NATO talks,
said he did not expect final details this week on the number of
missiles that would be deployed, where or for how long, as site
surveys were still going on.
He said the deployment would not be part of "an inexorable
move towards a no-fly zone" over Syria, of the sort NATO mounted
to defend anti-government rebels in Libya who toppled Muammar
Gaddafi last year.
In Prague, Clinton reiterated a warning against any attempt
by the Syrian government to use its chemical weapons stockpile
against the rebels, calling this a "red line" that would prompt
"I am not going to telegraph any specifics what we would do
in the event of credible evidence that the Assad regime has
resorted to using chemical weapons against their own people, but
suffice to say, we are certainly planning to take action if that
eventuality were to occur," she said.
The second day of the NATO meeting on Wednesday will focus
on progress in the alliance's efforts to gradually hand over
security control to Afghan forces as it prepares to wind down
its combat operations by the end of 2014.
U.S. officials say Clinton will seek to encourage what
Washington sees as an improving mood between Pakistan and its