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Ukraine to Join Southeastern European Defense Ministerial

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 29, 2005 – Next week Ukraine becomes a member of a regional European security organization at a conference that Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld will host here, a senior Defense Department official said today.

The 10th annual Southeastern European Defense Ministerial scheduled Dec. 5 and 6 marks the first time the organization has held its annual meeting in the United States, DoD spokesman Bryan Whitman said. The conference, he said, will be held at a downtown hotel.

"What is historic about this particular meeting," Whitman said, "is that it will mark the accession of Ukraine as a full Southeastern European Defense Ministerial member."

The Washington SEDM conference will provide an opportunity for visiting defense ministers to discuss likely issues such as counterproliferation, border security, peacekeeping, and upcoming regional exercises, Whitman said.

The United States helped to develop SEDM a decade ago, he said, to promote peace and stability and enhance regional security cooperation in southeastern Europe. SEDM's current membership includes Italy, Greece, Turkey, Albania, Bulgaria, Romania, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Slovenia and Croatia.

Some SEDM members, like Bulgaria, Greece, Turkey, Italy, Romania, Slovenia, as well as the United States, are also NATO members.

Moldavia and Ukraine had been SEDM conference observers in years past, Whitman said. Special guests at this year's meeting are Bosnia-Herzegovina and Serbia-Montenegro, Whitman said, noting Moldavia will attend as an observer.

This year's SEDM chairman is Albanian Deputy Defense Minister Besnik Baraj, Whitman said. The organization's chairmanship rotates annually among the European members, he said.

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