WASHINGTON - US President Barack Obama on Monday played down the use of US drones in Iraq, saying the program was very limited and focused mainly on protecting the US embassy in Baghdad.
The program has outraged senior Iraqi officials, said The New York Times, which first reported the drone flights.
The State Department began operating some drones in Iraq last year on a trial basis and stepped up their use after the last US troops left Iraq in December, the Times said.
"The truth is we're not engaging in a bunch of drone attacks inside Iraq. There's some surveillance to make sure that our embassy compound is protected," Obama said during an online question-and-answer session with users of YouTube and Google+.
"I think that there's this perception that we're just sending in a whole bunch of strikes willy nilly," Obama added. "It is important for everybody to understand that this is kept on a very tight leash."