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BRUSSELS - The Syrian military has continued to fire Scud-type missiles, NATO's top official said Friday, describing the move as an act of desperation of a regime nearing its end.
Although none of the Syrian rockets hit Turkish territory, Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmusen said the use of the medium-range ballistic rockets showed that NATO was justified in deploying six batteries of Patriot anti-missile systems in neighboring Turkey.
The United States, Germany and the Netherlands will each provide two batteries of the U.S.-built air defense systems to Turkey. More than 1,000 American, German and Dutch troops will man the batteries, likely from sites well inland in Turkey.
Syria's use of missiles are "acts of a desperate regime approaching collapse," Fogh Rasmussen told reporters at NATO headquarters in Brussels.
A week ago, U.S. and NATO officials said the Syrians had used the ground-to-ground rockets for the first time in the nearly two-year conflict. Damascus immediately denied the claims.
Syria is reported to have an array of artillery rockets, as well as medium-range missiles - some capable of carrying chemical warheads. These include Soviet-built SS-21 Scarabs and Scud-B missiles, originally designed to deliver nuclear warheads.
On Thursday, NATO's supreme commander U.S. Adm. James Stavridis said the Patriot batteries will be shipped to Turkey within the next few days. He said he expected them to achieve initial operational capability next month.
Stavridis said the chain of command starts with himself as the operational commander, through NATO's air component command in Ramstein, Germany, and down to the commanders of the Patriot batteries at their locations in southern Turkey.
The operation will be closely coordinated with the Turkish air defense system, he said.