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U.S. seeks to reassure Arabs on ties with Iran: Gates

U.S. seeks to reassure Arabs on ties with Iran: Gates

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said on Sunday he will seek to reassure Saudi and Egyptian leaders this week that Washington's diplomatic approach to Iran will not jeopardize long-standing ties to Arab states in the region.
Speaking to reporters aboard his plane ahead of a visit to Cairo and Riyadh, Gates said there were concerns in the region about U.S. efforts to engage Tehran that "draw an exaggerated sense of what's possible."
"One important message will be particularly for the Saudis that any kind of outreach to Iran will not be at the expense of our long-term relationships with Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states that have been our partners and friends for decades," he said.
"We will deal with this in a sensible way and in a way hopefully that increases the security of everybody in the region."
U.S. President Barack Obama has sought to open up diplomatic channels with arch-foe Iran in a bid to defuse tensions over its disputed nuclear program, but Gates said the White House had realistic expectations about what could be achieved.
"I think everybody in the administration from the president on down is pretty realistic and will be pretty tough minded if we still encounter a closed fist (from Iran)," he said.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said last month that the Obama administration was prepared to push for tough sanctions against Iran if attempts at a new dialogue fail to make progress on the nuclear issue.
Gates also spoke to worries among Sunni-led Arab countries over Tehran's influence with the Shiite-dominated government in Iraq, calling for Arab states to make a greater effort to cultivate ties with Baghdad.
"I think there are some suspicions about how much influence Iran has in Baghdad," the defense secretary said.
"I think if the Arab world is concerned about Iranian influence in Baghdad then the way to deal with that is to have more Arab influence in Baghdad."
He praised Egypt for taking "some serious steps forward to reengage" with Iraq but said other countries could do more.


Updated : 2021-02-27 00:32 GMT+08:00