NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, November 22, 2012

From Gabriela Baczynska and Martin de Sa’Pinto, ReutersNATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen rejected Russian criticism on Thursday of the alliance’s possible deployment of Patriot missiles near Turkey’s border with Syria.

Russia said earlier it opposed the deployment of the surface-to-air missiles, which Ankara has asked NATO for because it fears spillover from the civil war in its neighbour.

"This would not foster stability in the region," Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said.

Rasmussen, who was greeted by 100 anti-NATO protesters when he arrived to give a speech at the University of Zurich, said Russia’s criticism was "not justified".

"We have made clear from the outset we will do what it takes to defend our ally Turkey," he said in answer to a question.

Rasmussen said the deployment of the Patriot missiles, which can be used to intercept missiles or planes, would "serve as a deterrent to possible enemies even thinking of attacks" and help "preserve stability along our southern borders". The move would be "purely defensive", he said. . . .

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said in Paris on Thursday that France backed Turkey’s request. "There is no reason to object, it is purely defensive," he told BFM TV.  (photo: NATO)