U.S. To Help Turkey With Weapons
WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Pentagon is preparing to send a Patriot missile battery to Turkey in response to the Turkish government’s request for extra protection against possible Iraqi Scud missile attacks, U.S. defense officials said today.
Turkey’s request, announced in Ankara on Thursday, comes amid heightened tensions in the area. Iraq has been challenging U.S. and British enforcement of a ``no-fly″ zone in northern Iraq. The allied planes operate from Incirlik Air Base in south-central Turkey.
After four days of incidents in the ``no-fly″ zone, U.S. officials said there were none today.
Iraq is believed to have some number of Scud missiles capable of reaching Incirlik, although it has not launched any Scuds since the 1991 Gulf War, when it used them against several neighboring countries supporting the U.S.-led coalition, including Saudi Arabia.
Specialists from U.S. European Command in Germany were at Incirlik today to make final arrangements for the deployment, the U.S. officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
A formal deployment order was expected to be signed soon, one official said. Defense Secretary William Cohen, who would sign such an order, was en route to Washington from South Korea today.
``There is no indication that we won’t go ahead with this,″ the official said.
The Patriots, operated by U.S. Army crews, originally were designed to shoot down aircraft, but they have been modified for use against shorter-range ballistic missiles. Patriot batteries already are deployed in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.
On Thursday, Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt. Michael Doubleday would not say whether Washington intended to honor Turkey’s request for the Patriot missiles. ``We are interested in being as supportive as we can to any of our coalition partners who are involved in this operation,″ Doubleday said, referring to enforcement of the ``no-fly″ zone. ``And we will be looking at their request and reach a decision on that very soon.″