* Russia says alarmed by "militarisation' of Turkey-Syria
* NATO chief says Russian criticism not justified, move
* France says backs Turkey's request for Patriot missiles
By Gabriela Baczynska and Martin de Sa'Pinto
MOSCOW/ZURICH, Nov 22 NATO 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.
Rasmussen, making the first visit to neutral Switzerland by
a NATO secretary-general since 2004, voiced great concern about
the situation on the Turkish-Syrian border and said "the Turks
are increasingly worried about the situation".
NATO ambassadors met on Wednesday to consider Turkey's
request, which followed weeks of talks between Ankara and NATO
allies about how to shore up security on its 900-km (560-mile)
border with Syria.
The ambassadors reached no decision but the three countries
that could supply the Patriots, the United States, Germany and
the Netherlands, all said they viewed Turkey's request
positively, according to one NATO diplomat, who said a final
decision to deploy missiles was unlikely before next week.
FRANCE BACKS REQUEST
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.
Turkey has repeatedly scrambled fighter jets along the
frontier and responded in kind to stray shells flying into its
territory during the conflict in Syria, where an estimated
38,000 people have been killed since an uprising against
President Bashar al-Assad's government began in March 2011.
"The militarisation of the Syrian-Turkish border is an
alarming signal," Russia's Lukashevich told a weekly briefing.
"Our advice to our Turkish colleagues consists of something
else entirely: to use its potential influence on the Syrian
opposition to seek the start of an inter-Syrian dialogue as
swiftly as possible, and not to flex muscles and move the
situation in such a dangerous direction," he said.
Russia has vetoed three U.N. Security Council resolutions
aimed at putting pressure on Assad and accuses the West of
encouraging militants fighting his government.
Russia denies trying to prop up Assad, whose nation has been
an avid buyer of its weapons and hosts a naval supply facility
that is Moscow's only military base outside the ex-Soviet Union.
It says the crisis in Syria must be resolved without foreign
interference, particularly military intervention, and that
Assad's exit from power should not be imposed as a precondition
for a political solution.
NATO was Moscow's Cold War opponent and Russia has
repeatedly expressed concern about deployments relatively close
to its borders by the Western alliance, which has expanded to
include several former Soviet satellites and republics.