Testing Security at the Panama Canal

PANAMA CITY, Panama -- There will be threats from both the Atlantic and Pacific, and boats surrounding Panama to protect the canal.

Those were the details officials gave Friday when they explained next week's security exercises, in which 15 countries will work together to defeat a pretend terrorist attack against the Panama Canal.

Officials were preparing for the exercises, the third of their kind, by studying information and intelligence and coming up with a plan of attack, said Ricardo Traad, Panama's director of the National Maritime Service.

Traad said that this year, the exercises will include multiple threats from both the Atlantic and Pacific side of the canal.

Peru will direct the Pacific side of the operations, while Colombia will be in charge of the Atlantic side. The United States will command the maritime operations center, and Panama will be watch over the land-based operations center.

Nearly 40 ships from 15 countries will participate in "Operation Panamax 2005." The exercises will begin on Tuesday and last about one week.

Countries participating include Chile, Canada, Argentina, Ecuador, Honduras, Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, El Salvador, France and Uruguay.

The United States was in charge of the canal until it handed over control to Panama on Dec. 31, 1999.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press