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6,500 troops to take part in antiterror exercise - Russian general

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Some 6,500 troops will take part in large-scale counterterrorism exercises August 9-17 conducted by a regional security and economic group dominated by Russia and China, Russia's deputy Ground Forces commander said Tuesday.
MOSCOW, July 3 (RIA Novosti) - Some 6,500 troops will take part in large-scale counterterrorism exercises August 9-17 conducted by a regional security and economic group dominated by Russia and China, Russia's deputy Ground Forces commander said Tuesday.

The Peace Mission 2007 exercise, held by members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) in the Volga-Urals military district, will involve 500 combat vehicles from Russia and China, about 2,000 Russian and 1,600 Chinese personnel, two paratrooper companies (around 100 men each) from Tajikistan and Kazakhstan, and a platoon from Kyrgyzstan.

"The exercise will involve practically all SCO members for the first time in its history," Colonel-General Vladimir Moltenskoi said, adding that Uzbekistan would be represented by a group of staff officers.

Established in 2001 as a non-military alliance, the SCO initially set dealing with Islamic extremism and other security threats in Central Asia as its goal, but has since expanded its scope to include cooperation in disaster relief and trade.

The SCO never held a full-scale military exercise involving all its member states, but Russia and China have already held several military joint exercises within the framework of the organization, including the Peace Mission 2005 exercise.

During the August exercise, Russia and China will deploy 36 and 46 aircraft, respectively. Both countries will contribute six Il-76 military transports each to perform simulated airborne assaults, Moltenskoi said.

Participating units will start arriving in Russia July 27, the official said.

The group, which comprises Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, is largely viewed as a counter to NATO in the region. The organization also lists Iran, Pakistan, India and Mongolia as observers.

However, the Russian general said the upcoming exercises were not aimed at third countries and were mainly intended to practice troops interoperability in counterterrorism operations.

Russia's Security Council Secretary Igor Ivanov said in May that the organization, which is often referred to as the Shanghai-Six, focused on fighting drug and arms trafficking, terrorism and separatism, and was never intended to become a military bloc.

"The issue of transforming the organization into a military alliance has not been brought up," he said.

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