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IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Release No: 180-99
April 20, 1999

PENTAGON HOSTS U.S.-BENIN JOINT MILITARY COMMISSION

The U.S.-Benin Joint Military Commission began two days of meetings today to discuss continuing military cooperation between the United States and Benin.

This is the fourth annual meeting of the commission, which was formed in July 1996 during bilateral discussions in Washington. The inaugural session was conducted in Cotonou, Benin, in January 1996.

Since that time, the United States and Benin have conducted a series of military cooperation programs, including joint exercises, education and training for Beninois officers, and the provision of medical training and humanitarian assistance. The goal of these cooperative efforts has been to develop the professionalism and technical expertise of Benin's military and help it adapt to its new role in a democratic, civil society.

Minister of Defense Pierre Osho leads the Beninese delegation. The delegation also includes the Beninese Ambassador to the United States, Lucien Edgar Tonoukouin; Col. Felicien dos Santos, Chief of Joint Staff; Col. Pancrace Brathier, deputy chief of the National Gendarmarie; Col. Felix Hessou, director of planning, Ministry of National Defense; and Lt. Col. Jean Kouagou N'Pina, deputy chief of the Army Staff.

The U.S. delegation is headed by Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for African Affairs Bernd McConnell and includes representatives from the Joint Staff, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency, and U.S. European Command. The U.S. Ambassador to Benin, Robert C. Felder, also serves as a member of the delegation.

According to McConnell, "Benin stands today as an example of democratic governance in West Africa." It contributed police monitors to the Multi-National Force and United Nations Mission in Haiti. It has also contributed troops to the ECOMOG peacekeeping mission in Guinea-Bissau and is seeking to contribute troops to the ECOMOG peacekeeping mission in Sierra Leone, both missions being led by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).

The fifth session of the U.S.-Benin Joint Military Commission will be held in Cotonou in 2000 at a date to be decided by mutual agreement.

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