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US Defense Secretary Urges Funding for Afghanistan, Iraq Wars


US Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Thursday the U.S. Congress should approve more funds for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Secretary Gates, along with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, testified before a Senate committee on Capitol Hill. Both were seeking congressional support of $83 billion for U.S. military operations and foreign aid programs.

With the war in Afghanistan in its eighth year and more U.S. troops headed there to fight the insurgency, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates urged lawmakers to approve more funding for operations in Afghanistan as well as Iraq.

Funds are running out

Speaking on Capitol Hill, he also urged U.S. lawmakers to approve additional funds for Pakistan, where the government has been battling Taliban militants north and west of the capital, Islamabad.

Gates said he expects the Pentagon will run out of funds supporting Pakistan by mid-May.

"I urge you to take up this bill and pass it as quickly as possible," he said. "But please not later than Memorial Day."

Senators also questioned Gates about the remaining detainees at the Guantanamo Bay detention center.

The prison is due to be closed within a year. But the administration has not said what will happen to the 240 detainees still being held there.

Secretary Gates suggested that as many as 100 detainees could end up being held on American soil. He said he expects there will be opposition to that.

"I fully expect to have 535 pieces of legislation before this is over saying not in my district, not in my state," Gates said.

"I think you can count on it," Senator Mitch McConnell responded.

"And we'll just have to deal with that when the time comes," Gates added.

Gates said Americans cannot expect other countries to take some of the detainees if the U.S. does not take some itself.

Clinton: Dealing with Iran isn't easy

Also at the hearing, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was asked about the Iranian-American journalist Roxana Saberi, imprisoned in Tehran.

Clinton said the State Department's appeals to Iran have met with mixed responses.

"I think it shows you how difficult it is to deal with this government in Iran," Clinton said. "Because they are impervious to the human rights and the civilized standards that one should apply."

Saberi was convicted of espionage, a charge the U.S. says is baseless. She was sentenced to eight years in prison.

She has been on a hunger strike since last week, according to her father.

Clinton said the U.S. will continue to reach out publicly and privately to secure her release.

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