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US Defense Secretary in Iraq to Discuss Security Gains

By VOA News
05 December 2007

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates is in Iraq on an unannounced visit to assess the progress in security that has been achieved with a surge of U.S. forces in the country.

Gates flew into northern Iraqi city of Mosul for talks with U.S. commanders Wednesday, after ending a visit to Afghanistan.

U.S. defense department spokesman Geoff Morrell said Secretary Gates wants to see for himself the progress made since his last visit to the country nearly three months ago.

The spokesman said Gates will also meet with senior Iraqi leaders, including Prime minister Nouri al-Maliki, to get their view of the situation and to see what more they can do to build on the progress made so far.

In violence, Iraqi police say at least eight people were killed in three separate car bombings in the cities of Mosul, Baquba and Kirkuk.

Separately, the U.S. military said two American soldiers were killed Tuesday in an insurgent attack that involved a roadside bomb blast and small arms fire. Two other soldiers were wounded in the attack in Salahuddin province, north of Baghdad.

Tuesday, the Iraqi Cabinet agreed to ask the United Nations to extend authorization for U.S.-led forces in the country through the end of next year. The current one-year mandate for U.S. forces expires at the end of this month (December 2007). At present, there are more than 150,000 U.S. troops in Iraq.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.

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