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'Bright Star' Military Exercises Begin in Egypt - 2001-10-08

More than 70,000 troops have assembled in the Egyptian desert for military exercises known as Operation Bright Star. Military officials are emphasizing the maneuvers are not the result of the situation in Afghanistan.

More than 70,000 troops, mostly from the United States and Egypt, are assembling in the Egyptian desert for Operation Bright Star.

Military officials say it is the largest joint military exercise in the world. And it comes against a backdrop of U.S. and British attacks against military installations of the Taleban and al-Qaida - the Osama bin Laden terrorist organization. U.S. Marine Lieutenant General Michael DeLong says the military exercise demonstrates international solidarity. "There are 10 countries participating in Bright Star," he said. "There are 20 some observer countries other than the 10 countries that are participating. There is nothing better going on in the world, right now, that shows international solidarity and regional security."

This is the 20th anniversary of the joint military exercises that began in 1981 between the United States and Egypt. France, Italy, Germany, Greece, Jordan, Britain, Spain and Kuwait are also taking part.

In the past, the United Arab Emirates was also a participant but not this year. No reason was given and officials at the UAE Embassy in Cairo declined to comment.

Bright Star representatives refused to discuss the situation in Afghanistan, but said no thought was given to postponing or canceling the military maneuvers.

General DeLong emphasized the maneuvers had been planned for two years and had no relation to world events. He said it is simply a training mission and he fully expects his troops to return to the United States when Bright Star concludes November 1.