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Swiss troops line up alongside Nato partners

Adolf Ogi blocks his ears as the military exercises get underway

(Keystone)

Military exercises involving Swiss and Nato troops got underway in earnest on Monday, in the first joint training session to be held with Nato forces in Switzerland.

The weeklong exercises, which are being held in Lucerne, were opened on Sunday by the Swiss president, Adolf Ogi.

He said Switzerland was pleased and proud to be hosting such an event, but stressed that Swiss involvement was not a prelude to joining Nato.

He added that the training would not compromise Swiss neutrality.

The exercises, being held under the Alliance's Partnership for Peace (PfP) programme, are largely "virtual", with most of the action being simulated on computers.

Key aspects of the training include dealing with ethnic conflict and resolving disputes over fuel resources. Soldiers will also learn how to implement a ceasefire and provide humanitarian assistance under a United Nations Security Council mandate.

On visit to Switzerland last month, Nato secretary general, George Robertson, said the nature of warfare was changing with conflicts taking place within nations rather than between them.

The so-called "Cooperative Determination exercise" involves more than 400 participants from 19 nations. It 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 the PfP in 1994, following the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe.

swissinfo with agencies


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