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U.S. Defense Secretary In Saudi Arabia To Discuss Mideast Unrest

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates
U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates visited Saudi Arabia today to discuss with Saudi King Abdullah the unrest sweeping Arab countries.

Saudi Arabia, the world's top oil exporter and a major U.S. ally in the region, has not seen the same degree of popular protests that have toppled Arab leaders in Tunisia and Egypt and have others battling for their political lives.

There have been only limited peaceful protests, mainly by Shi'ites in the east of the country. Last month, the Saudis sent 1,000 troops into Bahrain, at the Bahraini government's insistence, to help contain Shi'ite unrest in the neighboring island kingdom.

The visit to Saudi Arabia is Gates' third visit to the region in the past month.

State Department spokesman Geoff Morrell told reporters that Iran's missile and nuclear programs, as well as concerns that it is seeking to exploit political upheaval in the Arab world, will be "a major focus" of Gates' talks with the Saudi king.

compiled from agency reports