Associated Press

TIRANA, Albania — United States, Albania and Macedonia are holding joint military exercises to boost combat readiness and promote cooperation with NATO and regional allies, the U.S. Embassy said Tuesday.

Some 1,500 Navy and Marine Corps personnel, three Albanian infantry platoons and helicopter support, and a Macedonian combat engineer platoon and special forces, were participating in the July 11-30 exercises, code-named Adriatic Engagement 2005.

The exercises include field scenarios, search and rescue, casualty evacuation rehearsals and maritime interception operations.

“Joint exercises promote security cooperation efforts that foster regional stability, advance multinational interoperability, and deter potential adversaries — all invaluable contributions to the international fight against terrorism,” the embassy in Tirana said in a statement.

Albania and Macedonia often carry out joint military exercises with NATO members in preparation for their proposed membership in the military alliance in 2006.

Albania, a predominantly Muslim country, strongly backed the U.S.-led war in Iraq. Although it was unable to provide significant military support, it opened its airspace, offered U.S.-led forces the use of its bases and sent a 120-troop army unit.

The tiny Balkan country also has peacekeeping contingents in Bosnia and Afghanistan.