Gates praises Egypt


US Defense Secretary Robert Gates (pictured, right) has praised Egypt as a key ally and said progress on a wide range of security issues in the region will require Egypt‘s “full participation and leadership.”

Speaking with reporters at Egypt`s presidential palace after meeting with President Hosni Mubarak and Defense Minister Mohamed Hussein Tantawi (pictured, left), Gates reported on “very productive meetings” that he said reinforced a longstanding bilateral friendship, the American Forces Press Service reports.

“We discussed a number of security issues, including Iran, the Palestinian-Israeli issue and steps in Iraq, and the opportunities for more cooperation among nations of the Middle East,” he said.

“It will take full participation and leadership from Egypt to see progress on these issues, as has always been the case,” the secretary said.

Gates also added that he looks forward to expanding the two countries` military-to-military relationships in ways that promote regional stability. He noted the Bright Star exercise series as an example of the activities and exchanges he said strengthen the U.S. armed forces as much as Egypt`s.

“Our military has benefitted from the interactions with the Egyptian armed forces – one of the most professional and capable in the region,” he said. “We are always looking for ways to expand these ties through education, training and exercises.”