Iran warns against Patriot deployment

Updated: 2012-12-16 10:35


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BEIRUT - Iran's army chief of staff warned NATO on Saturday that stationing Patriot anti-missile batteries on Turkey's border with Syria was setting the stage for world war.

General Hassan Firouzabadi, whose country has been a staunch supporter of President Bashar al-Assad throughout the 21-month uprising against his rule, called on the Western military alliance to reverse its decision to deploy the defence system.

"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."

Despite the warning, Firouzabadi did not threaten any action against Turkey in his speech to senior commanders at the National Defence University in Tehran. "We are Turkey's friend and we want security for Turkey," he said.

NATO's U.S. commander said on Friday the alliance was deploying the anti-missile system along Syria's northern frontier because Assad's forces had fired Scud missiles that landed near Turkish territory.

Damascus denies firing the long-range, Soviet-built rockets. But, forced on the defensive by mainly Sunni Muslim rebels, Syria's 47-year-old Alawite president has resorted increasingly to air strikes and artillery to stem their advances.

Warplanes bombed insurgents on the airport road in southeast Damascus on Saturday and government forces pounded a town to the southwest, activists said, in a month-long and so far fruitless campaign to dislodge rebels around the capital.

Activists also reported heavy fighting in the Palestinian district of Yarmouk in southern Damascus between rebels and fighters from a pro-Assad Palestinian faction.

In the north, rebels said they had seized control of an infantry college in the northern Aleppo province, but the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said there was still fierce fighting around the site by nightfall on Saturday, when it estimated at least 70 people had been killed across the country.

Desperate food shortages are growing in parts of Syria and residents of Aleppo say fist fights and dashes across the civil war front lines have become part of the daily struggle to secure a loaf of bread.