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Gates: U.S. commitment to Iraq 'long-term'

April 20, 2007 at 4:41 PM

BAGHDAD, April 20 (UPI) -- U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates told Iraqi officials Friday the U.S. commitment to Baghdad is long-term but said U.S. troops would not stay indefinitely.

"The United States sees Iraq as an important regional ally and a vital partner in the global war on terrorism," Gates said on the second day of his visit to Iraq. He was joined U.S. Marines Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, and senior U.S. military and Iraqi government officials at the news conference inside Baghdad's heavily fortified "green zone."

The news conference was reported by the American Forces Press Service.

"Our commitment to Iraq is long-term but it is not a commitment to have our young men and women patrolling Iraq's streets open-endedly," he said.

Gates, who met with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki Thursday, refused to discuss a timetable for a U.S. troop withdrawal. He said Washington was committed ensuing to the sovereignty of Iraq, training its security forces and providing support for reconstruction and modernization.

Gates met with leaders in Jordan, Egypt and Israel before traveling to Baghdad, urging those nations to support Iraq's fledging democracy.

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