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Hagel Reassures Mideast Leaders of US Commitment

The U.S. defense secretary has reassured Middle Eastern leaders that the U.S. is not abandoning its commitment to the region, following the recently negotiated deal with Iran about its nuclear program.

Chuck Hagel, speaking Saturday at a regional security forum in Bahrain, sought to alleviate apprehensions that the Iran nuclear deal, coupled with U.S. budget pressures and the drawdown in Afghanistan, could signal a decline in America's commitment to the area.

Secretary Hagel detailed for the Manama Dialogue the strength of the U.S. military presence in the region, including 35,000 military personnel supported by intelligence systems, and a variety of tanks, artillery, aircraft and ships.

The interim Iran deal crafted less than two weeks ago by major nations, including the U.S., would freeze parts of Iran's nuclear program in exchange for some relief from crippling Western economic sanctions. Gulf leaders are worried the agreement could embolden Iran and destabilize the area.

The U.S. defense secretary proposed new steps Saturday to improve security cooperation, including regular discussions of missile defense with the region's air chiefs and allowing the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council to purchase U.S. defense systems as an organization to encourage regional cooperation.

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