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IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Release No: 641-96
November 14, 1996

U.S.-BENIN JOINT MILITARY COMMISSION CONVENES

The second session of the U.S.-Benin Joint Military Commission opened this morning in Washington. Secretary of Defense William J. Perry welcomed the Minister of Defense of, Severin Adjovi, with an honors cordon at the Pentagon. The Joint Commission, which first met in Cotonou, in January 1996, will meet for two days to discuss the continuing military cooperation between the United States and Benin. The decision to form a joint Military Commission was reached in July 1995 during bilateral discussions in Washington.

Since March 1991, the United States and Benin have conducted a series of military cooperation programs, including joint exercises, education and training for Beninese officers, and the provision of medical training and humanitarian assistance. The goal of these cooperative efforts has been to help develop the professionalism and technical expertise of Benin's military and help it adapt to its new role in a democratic, civil society. The Commission, which will meet annually beginning in 1997, contributes to the planning and execution of these joint efforts.

The United States delegation, headed by Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for African Affairs Vincent D. Kern, includes representatives from the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Defense Security Assistance Agency, and U.S. European Command. U.S. Ambassador to Benin, John Yates, serves as a member of the delegation.

Benin is represented by Minister of Defense Severin Adjovi, who previously served as the speaker of Benin's parliament. The Beninese delegation also includes Colonel Felicien dos Santos, army chief of staff; Commander Prosper Kiando, cmmander of naval forces; Lieutenant Colonel Fernand Amotissou, director of military cooperation; and Benin's Ambassador to the United States, Lucien Edgar Tonoukouin.

Benin experienced a peaceful transition of power in March 1996, when President Mathieu Kerekou defeated incumbent Nicephore Soglo in free and fair elections. Benin contributed police monitors to the Multi-National Force and UN Mission in Haiti and has offered to contribute troops to ECOMOG, the peace-keeping mission in Liberia led by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).

The third session of the U.S.- Joint Military Commission will be held in Cotonou in 1997 at a date to be decided by mutual agreement.