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New U.S. Defense Chief Meets Iraqi Premier --> Robert Gates meets with U.S. troops in Baghdad (epa) December 21, 2006 -- The new U.S. Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, today met with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki in Baghdad for talks on the security situation in Iraq.

After talks, Gates told a news conference that Iraqi authorities are "determined to improve the security of the people here in Iraq and, above all, here in Baghdad."

"Much of our discussion today was focused on how the United States can be helpful in the Iraqi government's efforts to accomplish that goal and how, in our partnership, with the Iraqis in the lead, we can best play a supporting role," Gates said.

Gates also met with a group of soldiers for their views on what should be done. Gates admitted that the situation in Iraq is not improving.

Gates refused to say whether more troops were needed after meeting with military commanders in Baghdad on December 20.

U.S. President George W. Bush says he is considering sending more troops to Iraq briefly to curb the rise in violence in the country.

(AFP, Reuters)

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