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NATO: U.S. to base anti-missile ships in Spain

October 5, 2011 | 12:50 pm

REPORTING FROM BRUSSELS -- The United States and Spain announced an agreement Wednesday to base several U.S. Navy cruisers in Spain as part of a fledgling missile defense system in southern Europe that is due to be operational by the end of the year.

The system is aimed largely at Iran, which is developing shorter range missiles capable of hitting southern Europe, officials have said.

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta, Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero and NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen announced the deal at a NATO defense ministers’ meeting in Brussels.

Four Aegis cruisers, which have sophisticated radar for shooting down missiles, will be based at Rota naval base on Spain's Mediterranean coast, said a senior U.S. official, who briefed reporters on the condition of anonymity.


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Photo: From left, Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen and U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta at a news conference Oct. 5, 2011, at NATO headquarters in Brussels. Credit: Yves Herman / Reuters