NATO to have anti-terrorist exercises in Ukraine

NATO plans to hold a major exercise in Ukraine to test cooperation with other nations in dealing with a chemical weapon attack by terrorists, the alliance said Friday.

The maneuvers involving 750 staff and rescue personnel from 12 nations will run from Oct. 9-13 near the western Ukrainian city of Lviv.

"Emergency responses to potential terrorist attacks demand constant improvements in the way in which international cooperation ... is structured and coordinated," NATO said in a statement.

The scenario will feature a simulated terrorist attack using a chemical agent and allow experts to perform reconnaissance, decontamination, evacuation and medical care maneuvers.

NATO is stepping up closer ties with Ukraine, although it has declined to give commitments in response to the Ukrainian government's stated aim of joining the alliance by 2008.

Ukraine's new Prime Minister Yuriy Yekhanurov is scheduled to visit NATO headquarters next week and the alliance's decision making North Atlantic Council is due to travel to Kiev later in October.

Defense ministers from several NATO nations are set to meet their Ukrainian counterpart Oct. 23-24 in Lithuania for talks on support for Ukraine's attempts to overhaul its oversized armed forces, the AP says.

Ukraine's acting defense minister said Thursday he wants to cut the size of its armed forces by half within the next six years and transform them into a more effective and mobile force.

The armed forces would be reduced from its current size of 285,000 members to 143,000 by 2011, said Anatoly Gritsenko, a key ally of President Viktor Yushchenko.


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