US military drill starts despite condemnations

US military drill starts despite condemnations
Mon Jun 10, 2013 10:57:50

The United States has launched a multinational military drill involving Patriot missiles and fighter jets in Jordan despite condemnation from Russia.

Over 4,500 US troops, around 3,000 Jordanians, and 500 soldiers from Britain, Saudi Arabia and other countries are participating in the Eager Lion exercise, which started on Sunday, military officials said.

The US confirmed last week that it was deploying the F-16 jets and missiles, which can be used against planes and other missiles, to Jordan. Washington added that it might mull over keeping them in the Arab country after the drills.

US Major General Robert G. Catalanotti said at a joint news conference that the exercises would enhance “our ability to operate together in any upcoming contingency.”

However, the two nations claimed that the exercises, which involve a number of F-18 jets from bases in the Persian Gulf, were unrelated to the unrest in Syria.

The top army commander in charge of Jordanian troops, Major General Awni al-Adwan also told reporters that the drills have "nothing to do with any objective related to what is happening in Syria.”

The military drills in Syria’s southern neighbor is taking place several months after NATO dispatched six Patriot batteries to Turkey, the northern neighbor of the crisis-hit country.
Jordan is among the Arab nations that have supported the Syrian opposition groups.

Jordanian officials privately say they have asked that at least two Patriots remain in the country after the end of the dills. According to Western diplomats, Washington has given a favorable response to the request.

Meanwhile, Russia protested after the US confirmed that it had dispatched missiles and jets to Jordan.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said in a statement on June 4, “We have more than once stated our opinion on this -- foreign weapons are being pumped into an explosive region.”

“This is happening very close to Syria, where for more than two years the flames are burning of a devastating conflict…,” the statement added.

Syria has been gripped by unrest for over two years, and many people, including large numbers of Syrian soldiers and security personnel, have been killed in the foreign-sponsored militancy.

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