A multi-national team of NATO military commanders and inspectors arrived in Majorca yesterday on a reconnaissance mission ahead of a NATO Hirex 03 training exercise scheduled to be carried out in the Balearics later this year. Led by a reconnaissance team from the Spanish army's headquarters of its rapid reaction NATO force in Valencia and under the command of a Brigadier General, the group of representatives from a number of NATO-member countries started laying the foundations for the October exercise which will involve over 400 troops from 11 allied countries. The training exercise will be the most important carried out by Spain's rapid response NATO units and the first time that the Spanish have controlled the exercise in the Balearics. The Balearics has become a popular training ground for NATO fleets, especially mine-hunting exercises, but has hosted few NATO training operations involving NATO ground forces on a large scale. The exact details of the Balearic exercise have yet to be revealed. Only recently did NATO hold a large exercise on the mainland and parts of the west coast, south of Cadiz, just north of the huge United States base at Rota, were used by US marines on their way to Afghanistan and are being used by US troops on their way to the Gulf. Palma is to be the first control centre for European Union immigration patrols in the Western Mediterranean which will involve NATO members and ships while this week, NATO anti-terrorism naval patrols began operating up and down Spain's southern coast.

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