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US set to approve $4bn Patriot missile sale to Romania

© AFP/File | "Romania will use the Patriot missile system to strengthen its homeland defense and deter regional threats," the US State Department said

WASHINGTON (AFP) - 

The US State Department said Tuesday it is ready to approve the sale of Patriot air defense systems to Romania, a $3.9 billion deal likely to infuriate Russia.

"The State Department has made a determination approving a possible foreign military sale to Romania for Patriot air defense systems, related support and equipment," the State Department said.

Congress has 30 days to raise objections to the sale, though this is unlikely given that Romania is a NATO partner with important geo-strategic access to the Black Sea, where Russia-seized Crimea is located.

"Romania will use the Patriot missile system to strengthen its homeland defense and deter regional threats," the State Department said.

"The proposed sale will increase the defensive capabilities of the Romanian military to guard against aggression and shield the NATO allies who often train and operate within Romania's borders."

The Patriot is a mobile air-defense system made by Raytheon and designed to intercept tactical ballistic missiles, low-flying cruise missiles and aircraft.

The possible sale comes as the US military temporarily deployed a Patriot battery in Lithuania as part of multinational NATO exercises in the Baltic country.

Moscow last year deployed nuclear-capable Iskander missiles into its Kaliningrad exclave, which borders Lithuania and Poland, rattling nearby NATO members.

© 2017 AFP