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American Forces Press Service

Gates Praises El Salvador for Iraq Efforts

By Fred W. Baker III
American Forces Press Service

SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador, Oct. 2, 2007 – Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates met briefly with the Salvadoran president and minister of defense today discussing shared security interests in the region and the country’s continued participation in peacekeeping operations worldwide.

“The United States and El Salvador traditionally have enjoyed a close defense relationship. El Salvador plays an important role in humanitarian and peacekeeping operations worldwide,” Gates said at a brief news conference after the meeting.

Gates praised El Salvador’s participation in Operation Iraqi Freedom, calling the country “one of the most faithful coalition partners.”

The secretary also expressed condolences to the families of the five Salvadorans who have been killed in Iraq. El Salvador has provided one battalion of troops for nine rotations. The most recent deployed in August.

Gates said the battalion has performed “admirably” with coalition forces.

Salvadoran President Elias Antonio Saca pledged continued support during the conference.

The leaders of the two countries also discussed opportunities for a closer security relationship, both bilaterally and multinational, Gates said.

“As I visit close allies in the region this week, I am reminded of our common perspective and shared approach to the challenges we face,” the secretary said. “I look forward to our two nations working closely together to enrich our mutual understanding and to deepen our security relationship.”

Gates left Washington today for a five-day, five-country Latin American trip. The secretary had a similar visit planned this summer but rescheduled after he was needed at policy meetings in preparation for a July 15 report to Congress on progress in Iraq.

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