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Air forces from 14 NATO nations will take part in the Cooperative Key 2005 exercise — a semi-annual program for alliance members to practice coordinated air operations — starting Monday in Plovdiv, Bulgaria.

U.S. Air Forces in Europe troops from Germany and Iceland will be involved in the 12-day training, which will take place at the Krumovo and Graf Ignatievo air bases in Plovdiv, an U.S. Air Force spokesmen said Friday. Officials, however, could not say how many airmen will take part.

Other NATO nations include Bulgaria, Canada, Estonia, Greece, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Turkey, according to a NATO news release.

Following similar exercises in Bulgaria in 2001 and 2003, this year’s exercise will include eight nations from the alliance’s Partnership for Peace program. They are Azerbaijan, Croatia, Macedonia, Georgia, Moldova, Sweden, Switzerland and Ukraine.

Partnership for Peace is a NATO coalition designed to bolster defense cooperation between about 30 European and Eastern European nations, said Turkish army Col. Murat Ulutuncel, a spokesman for the event.

Members of a group of “Mediterranean dialogue nations” have also been invited for the first time, Ulutuncel said, and Algeria, Jordan and Morocco, along with Serbia-Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina, will send observers to the event.

Cooperative Key will follow much of the same format as the previous exercises during its 12-day run, including joint peacekeeping drills in which air forces with limited ground support will intercede between fictional warring factions and perform mock rescue attempts, Ulutuncel said.

Some 1,400 personnel and 100 aircraft will be involved this year, he said, with the exercise to be led by NATO’s Allied Air Component Command from Izmir, Turkey.

The exercise ends Sept. 5.


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