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US Defense Secretary Praises Russian Cooperation

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, center, and his wife Becky, left, are greeted upon their arrival in St. Petersburg, Russia, March 21, 2011

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates has praised a dramatic change in cooperation with Russia, as he begins a visit that will include talks with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.

Speaking to reporters on his plane Monday, Gates cited Russia's cooperation in the war in Afghanistan as well as its support of United Nations Security Council resolutions against North Korea and Iran.

The U.S. defense secretary also praised Russia for not blocking a U.N. resolution approving military action against Libya.

Gates delayed his visit to Moscow by one day so he could monitor the start of the operation in Libya, which is expected to dominate much of his talks with Russian leaders.

Moscow has criticized the U.N. resolution on imposing a no-fly zone over Libya, but abstained from a Security Council vote that allowed the measure to go forward.

In addition to Libya, talks are expected to include the turmoil in the Middle East, plans for missile defense in Europe and the war in Afghanistan.

Gates is making his final visit to Russia as secretary of defense. The former CIA director, who spent years, gathering intelligence on the Soviet Union during the Cold War, plans to step down from his post later this year.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and AFP.