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Stoltenberg, Trump agree NATO could do more in Middle East

In a phone call, U.S. President Donald Trump asked NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg for the organization to get more involved in the Middle East.

Stoltenberg, Trump agree NATO could do more in Middle East
During a Wednesday phone call, President Donald J. Trump (L) urged NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg (R) to step up the alliance's involvement in the Middle East. The two are shown here during a at Winfield House in London in December 2019. White House Photo by Shealah Craighead/UPI | License Photo

Jan. 9 (UPI) -- NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told U.S. President Donald Trump that the alliance could contribute more to regional stability in the Middle East and help more in the fight against international terrorism in a call.

Trump urged Stoltenberg on a call Wednesday for the alliance to step up its involvement in the Middle East, and the two leaders agreed to stay in "close contact" on the issue, according to a NATO readout of the call.

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"NATO plays a key role in the fight against international terrorism, including through training missions in Iraq and Afghanistan and as a member of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS," said the call readout.

The call came just hours after Tehran launched a missile strike on U.S.-held military bases in Iraq, which religious leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei warned were merely a "slap on the face" for the United States.

Tensions in the region have escalated since the killing of Iran's top military commander Qassem Soleimani last week.

NATO allies have expressed solidarity with the United States but some have withdrawn troops from Iraq.

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The alliance itself suspended a training mission last week to keep the Islamic State from regaining ground in the region, temporarily relocating to Kuwait as tensions between the U.S. and Iraq simmer.

On Thursday, Trump mentioned at an unrelated event that he felt NATO should expand into the Middle East, and described Stoltenberg as "excited" about the idea.

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