El-HAMMAM, Egypt (AP) _ U.S. Marines and Egyptian commandos stormed the desert beaches of northern Egypt on Saturday, in a military exercise that brought former Persian Gulf War allies together again.

In a drill that mimicked coalition forces coming ashore in Iraqi-occupied Kuwait in 1991, some 100 Egyptian commandos beached their rubber rafts and rushed up the sandy slopes of Egypt's northern coast.

U.S. Marine amphibious assault vehicles chugged through the surf as U.S. Apache helicopter gunships swept overhead, searching the shore for mock enemy forces.

Bright Star, which lasts a week, involves 58,000 servicemen from the Gulf War allies: the United States, Egypt, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Italy, France and Britain.

The exercises, which have been staged every two years since 1981, originally involved only U.S. and Egyptian armed forces.

Lt. Gen. Tommy R. Franks said the maneuvers were an ``opportunity to train as coalition partners, irrespective of what is going on politically.''

While the emphasis was on unity, the ``Bright Star'' training exercises come at a time when the former Gulf War coalition, which drove Iraqi forces from Kuwait, shows signs of political disarray.

In the U.N. Security Council on Thursday, Gulf War allies France and Egypt refused to back a resolution by the United States and Britain threatening Iraq with new sanctions if it continues to thwart arms inspectors.

The resolution passed despite French and Egyptian abstentions, but the move was a blow to Washington's efforts to maintain council unity on Iraq.

Bright Star will later include air strikes from the aircraft carrier USS George Washington, commando raids behind enemy lines and large-scale ground battles with tanks and artillery.

Bright Star has been held since 1981, when it was inaugurated to help train U.S. troops in desert warfare and help improve the Egyptian army. Later the exercises, staged every two years, were broadened to include other countries.