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Gates: Iran Support of Iraq Insurgents Unclear

MANAMA -- It is still too early to attribute a drop in the use of Iranian-made explosive devices in Iraq to any fall in Iranian support for insurgents there, US Defence Secretary Robert Gates said Thursday.

Gates was speaking to reporters after arriving in the Bahraini capital from Iraq where he held talks with government officials and military commanders, including the top American general in the war-torn state, David Petraeus.

"I think it is a little too soon to tell whether the decline (in the use of Iranian-made explosively formed penetrators) we are seeing is more from more success from finding caches, disrupting networks as well as the decision on part of some of the Shiite groups to lower the level of violence," he said.

"How that ties together with what the Iranians may or may not be doing is just too early to tell," he added.

The US military has regularly charged that Iranian-backed Iraqi Shiite extremists smuggle EFPs, fist-sized bombs that cut through a heavily armoured military vehicle, and use them against the coalition forces.

But last month Gates said he believed Tehran had assured Baghdad of helping in controlling the bloodshed in the war torn state.

Gates said on Wednesday that the violence in Iraq had dropped to levels not seen since the bombing of a Shiite shrine in the central town of Samarra that unleashed brutal Shiite and Sunni conflict nearly two years ago.

Gates visited Bahrain, home to US Navy's Fifth Fleet, to join more than 200 ministers, security officials and anti-terrorism experts from around 50 countries for a four-day forum on conference on regional security.

© 2007 Agence France-Presse

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MANAMA -- It is still too early to attribute a drop in the use of Iranian-made explosive devices in Iraq to any fall in Iranian support for insurgents there, US Defence Secretary Robert Gates said Thursday.Gates was speaking to reporters after arriving in the Bahraini...
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