'Ahmadinejad nixes Ankara trip over Patriots slight'

Iranian president cancels visit in wake of army chief warning to NATO not to deploy missile system in Turkey, 'Hurriyet' reports.

By REUTERS
December 16, 2012 18:17
1 minute read.
Ahmadinejad, Erdogan in Istanbul

Ahmadinejad, Erdogan looking somber 370. (photo credit: REUTERS/Murad Sezer)

 
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Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad canceled his upcoming visit to Ankara on Sunday after Iran's military chief warned against the deployment of NATO missiles in Turkey, Turkish daily Hurriyet reported.

Ahmadinejad was due to arrive Monday for a ceremony marking a ceremony at the invite of Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan.

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Last week, General Hassan Firouzabadi, the Iranian armed forces chief, said Iran wanted its neighbor Turkey to feel secure but called for NATO not to deploy the Patriots in its easternmost member state, 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."

Iran has been a staunch ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad throughout the 21-month uprising against his rule and long a strategic adversary of Western powers who have given formal recognition to Syria's opposition coalition.

US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta signed an order on Friday to send two Patriot missile batteries to Turkey along with American personnel to operate them, following similar steps by Germany and the Netherlands.

Iranian officials including parliament speaker Ali Larijani have previously said that installing the Patriot missiles would deepen instability in the Middle East, and the foreign ministry spokesman said they would only worsen the conflict in Syria.

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Turkey has repeatedly scrambled jets along its border with Syria and responded in kind when shells and gunfire from the Syrian conflict have hit its territory, fanning fears that the civil war could inflame the wider region.

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