Next month, Russian sailors will begin intense training with NATO navies to become the first of several non-alliance countries to join an anti-terrorism operation patrolling the Mediterranean Sea, officials said.

The seven non-NATO nations of Russia, Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, Egypt, Israel and Jordon, have voiced desires to join Operation Active Endeavor, launched in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the United States. The operation targets terrorists, human traffickers, and drug and weapons smugglers, said Italian naval Cmdr. Massimo Daicampi, a spokesman for the Allied Maritime Component Command Naples.

“Russia will begin actively training in February ... to learn NATO procedures and how to interact and collaborate with NATO ships to control terrorist threats in the Mediterranean,” Daicampi said Friday in a phone interview.

A crew from the guided missile destroyer USS Arleigh Burke, currently on deployment from its home port of Norfolk, Va., recently made the 100th “compliant” boarding of a vessel east of the Greek island of Crete, according to Daicampi, and a U.S. Navy news release.

Active Endeavor sailors board vessels after giving a verbal warning and then getting permission from the crew to board, Daicampi said. Vessel crews who fail to comply with alliance ship orders for boarding and inspections can be reported to officials at their countries of origin or anticipated ports of arrival, he said.

The 100th compliant boarding is a milestone because it shows that merchants transiting the Mediterranean acknowledge the importance of cooperating, Daicampi said.

In the more than four years since the nations started patrolling the sea, more than 75,000 vessels have been hailed and questioned.

After the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, NATO enacted Article 5 of the Washington Treaty, which committed its forces to the fight against terrorism. Active Endeavor started with patrols and escorts of vessels transiting the Straits of Gibraltar and the Suez Canal. In October 2004, it expanded to patrols of the entire Mediterranean, particularly in waters near the Middle East.

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