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March 31, 1998

Celebrating its 56th anniversary on Monday, the Inter-American Defense Board (IADB) was highlighting its support for mine-clearing operations in Central America as part of the centerpiece of what it has been doing to help foster security and peace in the hemisphere's nations.

At a brief ceremony at its headquarters in Washington, the Board's Chairman, Major General John C. Thompson of the US Army, identified the joint undertaking with the Organization of American States (OAS) Unit for the Promotion of Democracy as an endeavor of which it was particularly proud. He also made special mention of the Board's support for the OAS Committee on Hemispheric Security in confidence and security building in the hemisphere.

He reiterated that the institution had continued to live up to its charter mandate to recommend to each government appropriate measures for the defense of the hemisphere and observed that those guiding principles had remained fairly constant over the years: helping to prepare the region's sovereign countries to tackle "the common dangers that threaten our peace and our security."

"That is exactly what we are doing today," declared General Thompson, "despite the drastic changes that have been taking place over the past ten years." The chairman also underscored how the governments had been working together over the nearly six decades forging strong bonds of cooperation and understanding, "which reflect our increasing interdependence."

Military representatives from the Inter-American Defense Board's member nations which include Caribbean countries such as Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Dominican Republic, Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago were joined by diplomats and other guests in a toast to the future of the institution. Special recognition was given to Lt. General Gordon Sumner, Jr., who was chairman of the Defense Board from 1975 to 1978.

An exhibition of photographs and materials on some of the Board's major events and activities was also mounted to mark the anniversary, tracing the history and growth of the world's oldest hemispheric security organization.

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