US Defence Secretary starts regional tour in Jordan
US Defence Secretary Robert Gates arrived in Jordan on Monday at the start of a regional tour which American officials said is aimed at countering Iran's growing influence in the region.
Washington wants its close allies Egypt and Jordan to offer more support for the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki at international meetings, a senior Defence Department official said, according to AFP. It is also seeking greater opposition to Iran's nuclear plans and to Iranian support for Lebanon's Hizbullah, the official added.
In Amman, Gates will meet King Abdullah II and senior officials for talks on regional developments but "Iran in particular", the official said. "He's going to want to look and see what King Abdullah has to say about Iran."
Gates himself said he would speak with King Abdullah on "how we can contribute to his (peace) efforts and how the Jordanians can contribute to ours, not just in Iraq but in Lebanon (and) the Palestinian peace process." "Jordan has always been an ally of the United States," Gates told reporters on the plane to Amman. "The Jordanians have for a long time been a very constructive influence and I look forward to continuing that."
Arms sales to the region will also be high on the agenda. In Egypt, where Gates is expected on Tuesday, he will call on President Hosni Mubarak to consider the purchase of modern weaponry and focus on "counterterrorism and the non-state actors that we are all working together against in the region," the official said.