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U.S. Defense Secretary Faces Senate Skepticism On Iraq

Robert Gates at a recent press conference (epa) January 12, 2007 -- U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates has again defended a plan to send more than 20,000 additional troops in the face of opposition by Democrats and skepticism from some Republicans.

Appearing before a U.S. congressional panel for the second straight day, Gates said it should be clear within a couple of months whether the Baghdad government will follow through on its promises to strengthen Iraqi security measures.

Gates told the Senate Armed Services Committee that the United States could start withdrawing forces from Iraq this year if the some 20,000 additional troops being sent to Baghdad reduce violence significantly.

He also said that adding more U.S. forces would not by itself end sectarian violence in Iraq.

Republican Senator John McCain defended Bush's Iraq plan as a difficult but necessary move. McCain, a presidential contender for 2008, said he believes the plan along with other measures will give the Iraqis and Americans the best chance of success.

(AFP, Reuters, CNN)

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