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US Defense Chief, Iraqi PM Discuss Military Sales

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates has offered to try to speed U.S. approval of military equipment sales to Iraq.

Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell says a meeting Thursday between Gates and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki at the Pentagon focused on the equipment Iraq needs to improve its security forces.

Morrell provided no specifics on the weapons systems discussed. But he said the talks covered air, land and sea systems, and that the U.S. wants to see Iraqi forces modernize in a variety of ways.

Mr. Maliki also met in Washington Thursday with the speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, and Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry.

The Iraqi leader said these meetings come at a time of successful security-related developments in Iraq.

U.S. combat troops withdrew from Iraqi cities less than one month ago on June 30 and transferred security responsibilities for urban areas to Iraqi forces.

On Thursday, Secretary Gates credited improvements in Iraqi security forces, Mr. Maliki's leadership and the Iraq-US partnership for Iraq's ability to take over security in its cities.

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Maliki and President Barack Obama met at the White House to discuss Iraqi efforts to promote national unity, and Iraq's plan to distribute oil revenues among its different communities.

Mr. Obama says the United States is on schedule to withdraw all of its troops from Iraq by the end of 2011, despite the likelihood that "tough days" lie ahead. The United States still has about 130,000 troops in Iraq.

While in the United States, Mr. Maliki also is to meet with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner.