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Jordan asked US to deploy Patriot air defence missiles -army

By Suleiman Al-Khalidi

AMMAN (Reuters) -Staunch U.S. ally Jordan asked Washington to deploy Patriot air defence systems to bolster its border defence at a time of heightened regional tensions and conflict, the spokesperson for the country's army said on Sunday.

"We asked the American side to help bolster our defence system with Patriot air defence missile systems," Brigadier General Mustafa Hiyari, Jordan's army spokesperson, told state television.

U.S. Patriot missiles were stationed in the kingdom in 2013 following an uprising in northern neighbour Syria where the kingdom feared a civil war could spill over and ignite a regional conflict.

Jordan has been increasingly nervous that Israel's relentless bombing of Gaza since a deadly assault on Israel by Hamas from the enclave on Oct. 7 could also spread into a wider conflagration, officials said.

The Patriot, considered one of the most advanced U.S. air defense systems, is usually in short supply, with allies around the world vying for it.

Hiyari denied social media reports that the Pentagon was using its bases to transport some of the equipment and arms from its depots to Israel to bolster its defences in its war in Gaza.

The Pentagon has used Jordanian military installations in recent months, however, as Washington strengthened its military posture in the region, Western diplomats said.

The United States has sent a significant amount of naval power to the Middle East in recent weeks, including two aircraft carriers, their support ships and added thousands to the number of troops in the region.

Senior Biden administration officials including Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin have warned of the risk of major escalation in attacks on American troops in the Middle East and that Iran could seek to widen the Israel-Hamas war.

The kingdom has hundreds of U.S. trainers in the country and is one of the few regional allies who hold extensive exercises with U.S. troops throughout the year.

Jordan's army is one of the largest recipients of Washington's foreign military financing and runs in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

The kingdom has also requested more aid to tackle drones used in a raging multibillion dollar drug war along the border with Syria, which Amman blames on pro-Iranian militias who hold sway in southern Syria.

"The drones have become a threat on all our fronts," army spokesperson Hiyari said.

Since the start of the Syrian conflict in 2011, Washington has spent hundreds of millions of dollars to help Amman set up an elaborate surveillance system known as the Border Security Programme to stem infiltration by militants from Syria and Iraq.

(Reporting by Suleiman Al-Khalidi, editing by Deepa Babington and Grant McCool)