ANKARA (Reuters)–Turkey said on Thursday the United States was prepared to send Patriot missiles to its NATO ally in case of an escalation in the conflict in neighboring Iraq.
US fighter jets enforcing a no-fly zone over northern Iraq from a base in southern Turkey attacked Iraqi air defenses for the fourth consecutive day on Thursday in a cat-and-mouse conflict with Iraqi forces–who refuse to recognize the exclusion zone.
"It is felt that Patriot missiles could have a useful role to play and the United States has been asked whether such missiles could be brought to Turkey. The US response has been positive," the statement said.
Earlier this week new Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit criticized NATO-partner Washington for having no clear aims in its confrontation with Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.
A leftist with a Turkish nationalist streak–he said he wanted the United States to pursue more peaceful methods in its dealings with Iraq.
Patriot air defense missiles were used by Israel during the 1991 Gulf War to shoot down incoming Iraqi Scud missiles.
Large parts of Turkey are also in Scud range–though it is buffered from Iraqi government territory by an Iraqi Kurd-run enclave in northern Iraq.