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Gates in Egypt for Talks on Libya Conflict

Service : Politic
TEHRAN, March 24 (ICANA) – US Defense Secretary Robert Gates flew into Cairo on Wednesday for talks on the Libyan conflict and to reaffirm U.S. backing for democratic reforms in Egypt after an uprising ousted Hosni Mubarak.
Thursday, March 24, 2011 1:37:58 PM
Gates in Egypt for Talks on Libya Conflict

His previously unannounced visit comes with U.S. and allied aircraft enforcing a UN-mandated no-fly zone against the regime in neighboring Libya, where revolutionists are fighting to overthrow ruler Muammar Gaddafi.

It also comes at a key time for Egypt, after Egyptians overwhelmingly voted in favor of constitutional amendments at an historic referendum on Saturday, paving the way for parliamentary and presidential elections within six months.

In talks with his Egyptian counterpart, Hussein Tantawi, and Prime Minister Essam Sharaf, Gates was expected to give them an update on military operations in Libya and to hear Egypt's views on the crisis.

Gates is also keen to renew longstanding U.S. military ties to Egypt and to discuss the political upheaval sweeping the Middle East, said a senior defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Washington is anxious to shore up Arab support for the intervention in Libya and Gates is the second senior member of Barack Obama's administration to visit post-Mubarak Egypt, following Secretary of State Hillary Clinton last week.

Western leaders are now mulling their next steps with regard to the strikes after a defiant Gaddafi said that Libya is "ready for battle."

U.S. President Barack Obama says he expects "clarity" on the future command structure of allied military operations "over the next several days" and that there has been a "significant reduction" in U.S. military flights over Libya.

Gates comes to Egypt from Moscow, where he clashed with Russian officials over the Western bombing raids. Ahram Online

According to a Congressional Research Service report from 2009, U.S. foreign assistance to Egypt has averaged just over $2 billion every year since 1979.

Libya has the largest proven oil reserves in Africa, is Europe's largest oil supplier and Africa's fourth largest gas supplier. However, only 25 percent of its surface territory has been explored to date, thus making it an attractive option to international investors, much like Algeria. Fox Williams

The United States and its allies have run into some criticism for the intensity of the firepower unleashed on Libya. rferl.org

And political debate is growing on the international stage about how far UN authorization allows air strikes to go. rferl.org

U.S. President Barack Obama says the U.S. is looking forward to withdrawing its forces from Libya and handing over responsibility to foreign forces.

Before the no-fly zone was adopted, a number of senior U.S. officials including Defense Secretary Robert Gates warned about the consequences of such a decision. NY Times

Gates warned Congress earlier in March that even a more modest effort to establish a no-flight zone over Libya would have to begin with an attack on the country's air defenses and would require "a big operation in a big country." NY Times

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