US defense secretary still sees opportunity for talks with Iran despite 'not very encouraging' rhetoric.
By JERUSALEM POST STAFF
US Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Tuesday there is "no grand bargain" with Iran as the United States tries to bolster relations with the Teheran government.
Asked by reporters what kind of progress the US is hoping for with Iran, Gates said he didn't know what was possible.
The US is still waiting to see how the Iranians respond to President Barack Obama's outreach, Gates said, but so far the rhetoric from Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has been "not very encouraging."
"We're not willing to pull the hand back yet because we think there's still some opportunity," the Pentagon chief said. "But I think concerns out there of some kind of a grand bargain developed in secret are completely unrealistic."
He added, "The United States will be very open and transparent about these contacts, and we will keep our friends informed of what is going so nobody gets surprised."
Gates met Tuesday morning with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Defense Minister Hussein Tantawi before flying to Riyadh for meetings with Saudi Arabia's leaders.
He said he's going to be relying on Saudi Arabia to help with the situation in Pakistan, where violence has been building as the militant Taliban advances toward the capital.
Gates said the Saudis "clearly have a lot of influence in the entire region."
Asked about Obama's scheduled meetings with the leaders of Pakistan and Afghanistan in Washington this week, Gates said, "There will be a common agreement on the nature of the threat and the importance of Afghanistan and Pakistan working closely together with the United States and our partners to try and deal with that threat."
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