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Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Israel To Support NATO Counter-Terrorism Patrols

Reuters: Israel will provide support for NATO counter-terrorism patrols in the Mediterranean under a cooperation pact agreed with the alliance on Oct. 16.

NATO has sought since the end of the Cold War to bolster its presence in the Middle East, and the accord is the first one to be finalized since the 26-member alliance offered in 2004 to forge closer ties with Israel and six Arab states.

"Israel is the first one to have agreed to the details of what cooperation should entail," said a NATO official, adding that details of the pact would be released later.

The details agreed on Oct. 16 included a pledge to provide support for counter-terrorism patrols by alliance ships.

NATO has offered Israel, Algeria, Egypt, Mauritania, Jordan, Morocco and Tunisia help in reforming their armies and making it easier for them to cooperate with the military of alliance nations.

It has also encouraged them to provide ships, intelligence and port access for patrols NATO launched in the Mediterranean to help detect terrorist activity shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States.

Algeria and Morocco have also expressed an interest in supporting the patrols, but the Arab response to offers of cooperation has been generally patchy. Many in the Arab world regard NATO as a U.S.-dominated body intent on interfering.

NATO nonetheless held its first meeting in an Arab country this year with talks with the seven Mediterranean partners in Morocco, and is looking to provide officer training for them and four Gulf states.

Diplomats say Jordan had shown interest in hosting a NATO-run academy but no final decision has yet been taken.
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