Syria targets second Turkish plane


Turkey said today that Syrian forces had fired at a second Turkish plane which was searching for an F-4 reconnaissance jet shot down by Syria last week, but the second plane was not brought down.

Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc told a news conference that Turkey would protect itself, within the framework of

international law, against what it called Syria's "hostile action" of downing its warplane last week.

He said at the end of a seven-hour cabinet meeting on the incident that Syria's downing of the reconnaissance jet would "not go unpunished".

However he said the country would only act in accordance with international law.

"Whatever is needed to be done will definitely be done within the framework of international law. We have no intention of going to war with anyone. We have no such intent," he added.

The United States said today it would work with Turkey to hold Syria accountable for what US officials believe was a deliberate act.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said the US stood in solidarity with Turkey as it investigated last Friday's downing of the Turkish jet and determined its response.

But Mr Carney sidestepped questions about what an appropriate response might be to the incident, which has sent tensions soaring between Ankara and Damascus as Syrian President Bashar al-Assad seeks to put down a 16-month-old revolt.

"We will work with Turkey and other partners to hold the Assad regime accountable," Carney told reporters on board Air Force One as president Barack Obama flew to New Hampshire.

Syria described its shooting down of the plane on Friday as an act of self-defence and warned Turkey and its Nato allies against any retaliatory measures.

Its account of the shooting down, though tempered with commitment to a "neighbourly relationship", seemed likely to further anger Ankara, which has summoned a Nato meeting tomorrow over what it calls an unprovoked attack in international air space.

"Nato is supposed to be there to strengthen countries," Syrian Foreign Ministry spokesman Jihad Makdissi told a Damascus news conference.

"If their meeting is for hostile reasons (they should know that) Syrian land and waters are sacred."

Turkey say the wreckage of the aircraft, shot down close to the Mediterranean maritime borders of both states, is lying in deep water. Mr Makdissi said some flotsam had been found and turned over to Turkey. There was no word on the two airmen.

Meanwhile, a Syrian general, two colonels two majors, one lieutenant and 33 soldiers have defected from President Bashar al-Assad's forces and arrived in Turkey, Turkish state television said today.

The private news channel CNN Turk also reported the defections of the soldiers, but said they had arrived with members of their families, making a total of 224 individuals.

Elsewhere, the International Committee of the Red Cross today renewed efforts to enter the the Syrian town of Homs to evacuate trapped civilians and casualties, but it has yet to get "unambiguous" agreement from both sides, organisation President Jakob Kellenberger said.

Aid workers have been trying to enter Homs after both sides signed up to the idea of a humanitarian pause in the fighting last week.

Mr Kellenberger declined to elaborate on the hold-up but said aid workers faced security risks including booby-traps in the city.