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Ogi kicks off first Nato training exercise on Swiss soil

Adolf Ogi (right) and Nato General Emmanouil Mantzanas at the opening of the PfP exercises in Lucerne


The president, Adolf Ogi, has officially opened the first joint exercise to be held with Nato forces on Swiss soil. Speaking in the city of Lucerne on Sunday, he said the Swiss were both pleased and proud to be hosting such an event.

The "peacekeeping mission" will be held in Lucerne over the coming week, and is one of the most important to date in Nato's Partnership for Peace (PfP) programme.

Ogi again emphasised the fact that PfP membership is not the first step toward joining Nato. He insisted that the exercises did not threaten Switzerland's position of neutrality.

The annual Cooperative Determination exercise involves more than 400 participants from 19 nations.

It will allow soldiers from various armies to train together, and learn how to implement a ceasefire and provide humanitarian assistance under a United Nations Security Council mandate.

The participants will also undertake "virtual" computer-based exercises in Lucerne dealing with various types of conflicts such as ethnic violence and fighting over fuel resources in a fictional country.

The week-long exercise aims to test compatibility between armies, as well as forces' ability to co-operate.

Switzerland took a small step away from its traditional policy of strict neutrality in 1996 when it joined the PfP in a bid to promote collective security in Europe, in the wake of the Cold War.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation launched PfP in 1994 following the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe.

swissinfo with agencies

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