Washington, 15 August 1996 (RFE/RL) -- Some 1,100 soldiers from 23 countries settled into field tents last night after a colorful opening ceremony launching a NATO Partnership for Peace Exercise in the United States.
Participating troops marched onto the parade ground at the U.S. Marine Corps base at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, bearing their national flags.
They stood at attention until all 23 country platoons were assembled -- from the three Baltic states, from Romania, Slovakia and Bulgaria, as well as Albania, Austria, Hungary and Poland. They also came from Ukraine and Moldova and from Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan.
NATO participants came from the United States, Canada, Denmark and the Netherlands. The Czech Republic and Azerbaijan have sent observers.
In welcoming remarks, U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary John White told the troops they will train to meet world-class standards in peacekeeping and humanitarian operations similar to those used in Bosnia.
The exercise, code-named "Cooperative Osprey '96" will be more sophisticated and more challenging than any preceding Partnership maneuvers as they will involve a combination of maritime and land operations, said White.
The troops were scheduled to spend most of today in classroom preparation and will go into the field for situation training on Friday.