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SHAPE NEWS MORNING UPDATE 19 JUNE 2002

 

NATO
  • Russia stays away from NATO exercise in Georgia
  • British defense minister says government supports Romanian and Bulgarian bids for NATO membership

ANTI-TERRORISM

  • Morocco holds seven suspected al Qaeda members
  • Portuguese defense minister says his country is committed to supporting war on terror

BALKANS

  • Kosovo Corps says top members arrested by UN
  • Greek, Yugoslav defense ministers agree on Balkan issues

OTHER NEWS

  • Pentagon may seek initial missile defense in 2004

NATO

  • About 600 troops from NATO and non-NATO countries launched a mock peacekeeping operation in former Soviet Georgia on Tuesday, but Russia stayed away despite its growing ties with the U.S.-led alliance. The 10-day exercise, held at a military base where Russian soldiers used to be stationed, attracted forces from several of Moscow’s allies including former Soviet Ukraine, Armenia and Azerbaijan. But Russia, which in May set up a new joint council with NATO turning a page in its relationship with its old Cold War adversary, followed past practice and declined to take part. "Invitations were sent to many countries to take part, but Russia did not reply," said Canadian Colonel Serge Labbe, a co-director of the exercise named Cooperative Best Effort-2002.(Reuters 1306 180602 Jun 02 GMT)

 

  • Britain’s defense minister said Tuesday that his government supports Romanian and Bulgarian bids for NATO membership. Geoffrey Hoon said the two countries would make good alliance members because of their strategic location, their ability to contribute militarily and their "political insight into problems in the western Balkans." He stressed, however, that his country’s support does not guarantee that the two will receive invitations at an alliance summit to be held in Prague in November. NATO will only issue invitations to "those countries who show determination to continue reforms," Hoon said at the end of a one-day visit to Romania. Hoon met with President Ion Iliescu, Defense Minister Ion Mircea Pascu and Foreign Minister Mircea Geoana during his visit. He said the Romanian government "accepts there is more work to be done in ... key areas."(AP 181644 Jun 02 GMT)

 

ANTI-TERRORISM

  • Moroccan security forces have arrested a seventh person after detaining a group suspected of plotting al Qaeda "terrorist" attacks mainly on U.S. and British ships, a prosecutor said on Tuesday. Moulay Abdallah Alaoui Belghiti, the prosecutor of Casablanca Court of Appeal, told reporters in a news briefing that three Saudi nationals and four Moroccans, including three women, had been arrested in May and June. "A group composed of seven suspected members of al Qaeda are currently being interrogated by an examining magistrate...They had plans aimed at committing terrorist attacks in Morocco, including Marrakesh, and in the Gibraltar strait," Belghiti said from an official statement. Under Moroccan law, some of the group could face the death penalty if found guilty. Earlier this month, a government official said the suspects were being held for allegedly plotting to attack NATO targets, including U.S. and British warships in the Mediterranean. The three Saudis, aged between 25 and 35, were identified. No date for a trial was given.(Reuters 2123 180602 Jun 02 GMT)

 

  • Although it has no combat forces in the fight against al-Qaida in Afghanistan, Portugal is committed to supporting the global war on terrorism, Portuguese Defense Minister Paulo Portas said on Tuesday. "We must fight terrorism because it is an attempt against our way of life, our culture, our civilization, our freedom and our democracy," Portas said at a joint news conference with Defense Secretary Rumsfeld. Rumsfeld said he was thoroughly satisfied with support from Portugal, a longtime American ally. Portugal has an eight-person medical team in Afghanistan under the control of the ISAF. It also has a C-130 transport plane there with a 15-person maintenance crew.(AP 181856 Jun 02 GMT)

BALKANS

  • The successor force to the Kosovo Liberation Army said UN police had arrested four of its members on Tuesday, including three senior officials. Police in the Yugoslav province confirmed they had arrested four Kosovo Albanian men suspected of serious assaults and unlawful detentions but would not reveal details of their identity. Police described the operation as complex and extensive. "UNMIK remains committed to establishing the rule of law in Kosovo and today’s operation demonstrates that no one is above the law," police said in a statement. The Kosovo Protection Corps said the four had been "attacked" by special police units. It identified the four as Colonel Lahi Brahimaj, Major Sadik Ceku and Major Idriz Balaj -- who were arrested in Pristina and were responsible for liaison with UNMIK -- and Bekim Zekaj, a corps member arrested in the western city of Pec. Police said the men were suspected of serious crimes against other ethnic Albanians in June 1999, in the aftermath of the Kosovo conflict. AP 1822 180602 Jun 02 GMT)

 

  • Greece and Yugoslavia oppose any change of borders in the Balkans and will work together to preserve peace in the volatile region, the countries’ defense ministers said on Tuesday. During talks between Greek Defense Minister Papantoniou and his Yugoslav counterpart, Velimir Radojevic, both officials agreed the two countries would strive for a greater level of security in the Balkan peninsula. Papantoniou stressed that Greece supports efforts of Yugoslavia’s new democratic leadership. Papantoniou also said that Greece would continue helping Yugoslavia upgrade its military schooling techniques as a preparation for joining the NATO program.(AP 181619 Jun 02 GMT)

 

OTHER NEWS

  • With the anti-ballistic missile treaty dead, a Pentagon agency said on Tuesday it hoped to deploy the initial, sea-based leg of a system to protect America and its allies from missile attack as early as 2004. But private analysts quickly warned that a two-year goal for deploying a warship-based system was unrealistic even with accelerated testing planned in the wake of last week's scrapping by Washington of the 1972 U.S.-Russia ABM treaty Any reliable defense against intercontinental missile attack was still a decade away due to technology hurdles, they said. "There are still a lot of hurdles and ‘what ifs,’ but if everything were to come together it might be a possibility" by 2004, Pentagon Missile Defense Agency spokesman Chris Taylor said of the initial step in an interview with Reuters. "It (sea-based system) is very promising. The general is cautiously optimistic," Taylor added in response to questions about a Wall Street Journal interview on Monday with Air Force Lt. Gen. Ronald Kadish, who heads the Pentagon agency. Taylor and Kadish stressed that even if a sea-based system could be fielded soon, it would be only a part of an eventual layered set of defenses to protect the United States, its allies and U.S. troops overseas from short- and long-range ballistic missiles.(Reuters 1623 180602 Jun 02 GMT)

 

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