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Joint Drill Enters Final Phase
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The heads of state of all six Shanghai Cooperative Organization (SCO) members will watch the final phase of "Peace Mission 2007" in Russia's Urals Mountains today.

The joint anti-terrorism military exercise began in Urumqi, capital of Northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, on August 9.

"All the troops participating in the drill have gathered at the site," Deputy Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Army Colonel-General Vladimir Moltenskoy said yesterday. Moltenskov, who is also Russia's commander-in-chief for the drill, was speaking at a joint news conference with his SCO counterparts.

After combat preparations and joint training sessions at a range of the Russian Army's 34th Motorized Rifle Division last week, the joint forces of China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan will "retake" a town from "terrorists" today, bringing an end to "operation rescue".

"The six countries' armed forces have coordinated excellently in commanding, planning and combat operations. It's difficult to distinguish whether it is a multinational force or that of an individual country in action," General Xu Qiliang, deputy chief of the General Staff of the People's Liberation Army (PLA), said. General Xu is also the Chinese commander-in-chief for the joint exercise.

"To this end, we have done a lot despite the language differences and disparities in tactics," Xu said.

About 6,500 troops are part of SCO's largest counter-terrorism exercise. About 500 combat vehicles and 80 aircraft from Russia and China, about 2,000 Russian and 1,600 Chinese personnel, two paratrooper companies (of about 100 men each) from Tajikistan and Kazakhstan, and a platoon from Kyrgyzstan comprise the joint forces.

Observers said the leaders' presence at the war game, the first time in the history of the SCO, demonstrates their determination to combat the three evil forces of terrorism, separatism and extremism that pose a threat to peace and stability in the region.

Till last year, defense ministers were the highest ranking officials to watch the bilateral or trilateral military exercises.

The purpose of the joint anti-terrorist maneuver is to "demonstrate the determination of the SCO member states in the fight against the three evil forces, as well as the common desire to ensure security and stability in the region and stimulate common development and prosperity," Vice-Chairman of Central Military Commission, State Councilor and Defense Minister Cao Gangchuan said after arriving at Shagol airfield outside Chelyabinsk on Wednesday.

(China Daily August 17, 2007)

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