KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates says the United States is open to the idea of keeping troops in Iraq past a deadline to leave next year — if the Iraqi government asks for it.
Gates says the U.S. will "stand by" for such a request once the country ends an eight-month political deadlock and forms a new government. He says the U.S. is "ready to have that discussion."
Gates is urging Iraq's squabbling political blocs to form an inclusive government. But he says he has not weighed in with any of the leaders directly.
The leaders are holding three days of discussions — their first such gathering since elections in March.