Gates: Don't test Obama in first months

US secretary of defense warns enemies against testing US in initial months of new administration.

US Secretary of Defense Robert gates warned US enemies not to "test" the US in the first months of US President-elect Barack Obama's presidency, Reuters reported Saturday. Speaking at a regional security conference in Bahrain, Gates was quoted as saying, "Anyone who thought that the upcoming months might present opportunities to test the new administration would be sorely mistaken." "I can assure you that a change in administration does not alter our fundamental interests, especially in the Middle East," he said. Gates added that the US would continue to work towards peace in the Middle East and the Persian Gulf. "President Obama and his national security team, myself included, will be ready to defend the interests of the United States from the moment he takes office on January 20th." The secretary of defense went on to reiterate a US request for Sunni Arab countries to back Iraq's government by renewing diplomatic relations. "There is no doubt that Iran has been heavily engaged in trying to influence the development and direction of the Iraqi government - and not as a good neighbor," he was quoted as saying. "Iraq wants to be your partner… And, given the challenges in the Gulf, and the reality of Iran, you should wish to be theirs." Gates also condemned Iranian support of Hamas and Hizbullah, and said that the Islamic Republic's nuclear program was "almost assuredly" aiming to produce nuclear weapons.