By Humphrey Carter
THE local anti-war movement seized on the presence of the NATO flotilla in Palma to call on Spain's in-coming prime minister Jose Luis Zapatero to pull out of NATO, however, Commador Leon Bruin of the Dutch flagship leading the flotilla said that the Mediterranean is no longer as safe as it used to be. The NATO ships are actually part of the Standing Naval Force Atlantic, but because of security concerns in the area between the Strait of Gibraltar and the Suez Canal, the flotilla is assisting NATO Standing Naval Force Mediterranean carry out Operation Endeavour. As part of the security mission, NATO ships on patrol in the area are required to stop and search any suspicious vessels which could be carrying arms destined to be used in terrorist attacks on mainland Europe. The operation's mission to also conduct naval operations in the Med to actively demonstrate NATO's resolve and solidarity and last year was ordered to escort non-military ships through the Stait of Gibraltar. The Strait has been recognised as a potential site of terrorist attacks and, as of March 14 this year, 414 vessels had been escorted through the Strait. The Active Endeavour Operation actually started on October 26, 2001 and has so far “monitored” a total 41'000 vessels in the Mediterranean. Apart from the NATO ships involved in the mission, the surveillance operation also utilises aircraft and submarine assets in order to enable NATO command to build an accurate picture of maritime activity in the area of operations. The ships, with a total crew of 1'200, will remain in the Dique del Oeste, under tight security, until April 13.
They return to active duty on April 16.


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