CAIRO Ñ NATO plans to conduct a Middle East exercise in 2005 that
would include Israel.
Arab diplomatic sources said NATO has been discussing the exercise with
Israel and at least four Arab countries. The sources said that so far the
Arabs have not rejected participating in the first military exercise with
the Jewish state.
The proposed naval exercise would take place in the first quarter of
2005, the sources said. They said in addition to Israel the exercise would
include Algeria, Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia. All four Arab states are
members of NATO's Mediterranean Dialogue, Middle East Newsline reported.
The sources did not provide details of the exercise, but did not rule
out that the Middle East states would attend as observers. They said the
planned maneuvers would be organized by NATO and include assets from navies
of the Western alliance.
The planned exercise was part of increasing ties between NATO and North
African states. On Tuesday, representatives of five North African and five
European states signed a defense and security cooperation memorandum in
The sources said Libya has been angered by the agreement of North
African states to participate in the NATO exercise with Israel. They said
this prompted a decision by Libyan ruler Moammar Khaddafy to reject an offer
to chair the Maghreb Union, an alliance of North African states.