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What Deadline? Gates Says U.S. Open To Staying in Iraq

"ready to have that discussion"

U.S. Marines of the 1st Division line up for a joined prayer at their base outside Fallujah, Iraq, Nov. 6 , 2004. Four years into the Iraq war, President Bush is staring down a Congress in revolt. (AP Photo/Anja Niedringhaus)

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.

One last thing…
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