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Rumsfeld in UAE at Start of Gulf Tour - 2003-04-27

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld arrived in Abu Dhabi Sunday as part of a tour of the Gulf region to thank U.S. allies for their assistance in removing Saddam Hussein from power.

The United Arab Emirates allowed U.S. forces to use its base at al-Dhafra for refueling aircraft and U-2 reconnaissance flights.

During his trip, details of which are being kept confidential for security reasons, Mr. Rumsfeld is also expected to discuss the U.S. military presence in the region now that U.S. troops are in control of Iraq. Military analysts have said the United States will likely downsize the military presence, which has caused widespread domestic dissent throughout the Arab world.

Mr. Rumsfeld said he would stress the "evolution" that is taking place from major combat operations in Iraq to stability operations.

American military forces are currently using facilities in the UAE, Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, where the U.S. Central Command is located.

Washington is considering a possible reduction of its military presence in the region now that Saddam Hussein has been removed. The details of the secretary's trip are being kept confidential for security reasons, including whether he will travel to Iraq, where 130,000 U.S. troops are deployed.

Mr. Rumsfeld is also planning to visit Afghanistan, but because he arrived in the UAE six hours later than expected, that trip is to be rescheduled. Mechanical problems during a refueling stop in Ireland caused the delay.

Mr. Rumsfeld said his trip to Afghanistan will be to discuss declaring a formal end to combat operations and speed up reconstruction of that country.