The U.S. Secretary of Defense concluded a tour of the Gulf region Thursday in Kuwait where he thanked leaders for their help in the U.S.-led overthrow of former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

Secretary Rumsfeld stopped in Kuwait after visiting Iraq and other countries in the region. Mr. Rumsfeld held talks with Kuwait's Emir Jaber al Ahmad Al Sabah and other senior government officials.

He was expected to discuss the realignment of U.S. forces in the Gulf region, including the withdrawal of most U.S. troops from Saudi Arabia. U.S. officials say Kuwait and Qatar will continue to play key roles in U.S. defense strategy in the region.

The secretary of defense was also expected to thank Kuwait's Emir for allowing coalition forces to use Kuwaiti space to invade its neighbor Iraq.

On Wednesday, Mr. Rumsfeld told the Iraqi people coalition troops will help create conditions for the development of Iraqi democracy, and will not stay any longer than necessary.

The secretary is scheduled to visit Afghanistan starting later Thursday.