* US says deployment of missiles could still take weeks
* Officials say discussion not part of plan for no-fly zone
* Russia expected to raise objections to deployment
* US sees promising signs from Pakistan over Afghanistan
By David Brunnstrom
PRAGUE, Dec 3 U.S. Secretary of State Hillary
Clinton is hopeful NATO allies will agree this week on
stationing Patriot missiles in Turkey to defend against possible
Syrian attacks, senior U.S. officials said.
She also reiterated a warning against any attempt by the
Syrian government to use its chemical weapons stockpile against
the rebels, calling this was a "red line" that would prompt U.S.
The 28 NATO allies will meet in Brussels on Tuesday and
Turkey, which has formally asked NATO to help it bolster its
air defences, is a big supporter of rebels fighting in a
20-month-old uprising to oust Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
It has repeatedly scrambled jets along the countries' joint
border and responded in kind when shells from the conflict have
crashed inside Turkey, underlining fears Syria's civil war could
spread to destabilise the region.
"We're all positively considering (the request)," a senior
State Department official said, briefing reporters en route to
Europe, where Clinton started a regional trip with a stop in
"(We) are hopeful that NATO will be in a position to respond
positively ... and that the three contributing countries that
are being considered - the United States, Germany and the
Netherlands - will be in a position to also contribute."
The State Department official said he did not expect final
details this week on the numbers of missiles that would be
deployed, or where or for how long, as site surveys were still
He also said it would probably be "at least a matter of
weeks" before deployment, as national decisions still had to be
made and surveys completed and agreed.
Russia, which will join the NATO meeting, has been at odds
with the alliance over how to end the Syrian conflict. Russia
has vetoed U.N. resolutions aimed at pressuring Assad to step
down and Moscow's foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, is expected
to raise concerns over the missile deployment plans.
The State Department official said the deployment would not
be part of "an inexorable move towards a no-fly zone" over Syria
of the sort NATO mounted to defend anti-government rebels in
Libya who toppled Muammar Gaddafi last year.
The official also rejected the idea that deployment of
Patriots in Turkey would create a de-facto safe haven in Syria's
border area with Turkey, as the missiles would be used to defend
against planes or missiles that crossed into Turkish air space.
NO-FLY ZONE "NOT ON AGENDA"
The possibility of establishing a no-fly zone is expected to
be discussed at a meeting of the Friends of Syria group in
Marrakech next week.
"We're always prepared - and the Secretary has made that
clear - to look at ways in which we can help the people of
Syria," the official said. "But ...a no-fly zone is not on the
agenda of any NATO talks this week."
France, Britain, Turkey and Gulf Arab states have already
recognised a rebel coalition as the legitimate representative of
the Syrian people. The United States has been more cautious and
not offered full recognition, or arms the rebels are seeking.
Clinton, at a news conference with Czech counterpart Karel
Schwarzenberg, again warned Syria against resorting to chemical
weapons against the insurgents.
"I am not going to telegraph any specifics what we would do
in the event of credible evidence that the Assad regime has
resorted to using chemical weapons against their own people, but
suffice to say, we are certainly planning to take action if that
eventuality were to occur," she said.
"So we once again issue a very strong warning to the Assad
regime that their behaviour is reprehensible, their actions
against their own people have been tragic, but there is no doubt
that there is a line between even the horrors they have already
inflicted on the Syrian people and moving to what would be an
internationally condemned step of utilising their chemical
Clinton will also hold talks in Brussels on Monday with
Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar and Islamabad's
military chief General Ashfaq Kayani.
U.S. officials say she will seek to encourage what
Washington sees as an improving mood between Pakistan and its
neighbour Afghanistan, where U.S.-led forces are seeking to
extricate themselves from a long and bloody war.
A second U.S. official pointed to better signs since
Washington's ties with Islamabad hit a low in 2011 after U.S.
forces killed al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden while he was
hiding in the Pakistani city of Abbottabad.
He noted exchanges of high-level visits between Pakistan and
Afghanistan, where NATO still has a large multinational force
that is due to end its combat operations in 2014, and Pakistan's
release of Taliban prisoners as requested by the Afghans to help
smooth the way for peace talks with the Islamists.
"I think the Pakistanis are actually pressing forward (on
improving relations) because, like a lot of people in the
region, they recognise that 2014 is not so far away," he said.
As well as discussions on security, the United States had
made efforts to expand the economic relationship with Pakistan
and this was an issue expected to come up in Monday's talks.