* Iranian army chief accused NATO of risking world war
* NATO: Patriots on Turkey's Syria border defensive only
BRUSSELS Dec 17 NATO's secretary-general on
Monday rejected charges by Iran's armed forces chief that the
Western alliance was risking a world war with plans to put
Patriot anti-missile systems near Turkey's border with Syria,
saying the move was purely defensive.
NATO agreed this month to send Patriot missiles to Turkey to
protect its ally against possible attack from neighbouring
Syria, where a 21-month-old civil war is raging. Turkey has
harboured some Syrian rebels and refugees, and there have been
episodes of gunfire from Syria hitting Turkish territory.
"I completely denounce these (Iranian) allegations. We have
made clear right from the outset that the deployment of Patriots
is a purely defensive measure," NATO Secretary-General Anders
Fogh Rasmussen told a news conference after talks with Belgian
Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo. "We are there to defend and protect
our ally Turkey. We have no offensive intentions whatsoever."
Rasmussen said he believed the only people who might be
concerned about NATO's pending deployment of Patriot missiles
were "actors that might have silly ideas to use their missile
capabilities for offensive purposes.
"But I hope that the fact that we have deployed Patriot
missiles in Turkey can act as an effective deterrent so that no
one would even think about attacking Turkey," he said.
General Hassan Firouzabadi, Iran's army chief of staff, was
quoted on Saturday as calling for NATO not to deploy the
Patriots in Turkey, which also borders Iran.
"Each one of these Patriots is a black mark on the world
map, and is meant to cause a world war," Firouzabadi said,
according to the Iranian Students' News Agency. "They are making
plans for a world war, and this is very dangerous for the future
of humanity and for the future of Europe itself."
The United States, Germany and the Netherlands are sending a
total of six Patriot batteries to Turkey but they are not
expected to be operational for several more weeks.
(Reporting by Adrian Croft; Editing by Mark Heinrich)