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No plans to bolster US forces in Mid-East: Panetta

Published on Sep 16, 2012 8:33 PM
U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta (C) steps off his jet after arriving at Yokota Air Base in Japan, on Sept 16, 2012. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

TOKYO (AFP) - The United States (US) military has no major plans to bolster its forces in the Middle East despite a week of violent protests targeting diplomatic outposts, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said on Sunday.

With a substantial force already deployed in the region coupled with two US Marine counter-terrorism teams sent to Libya and Yemen, the military has the ability to respond as necessary to protect American diplomats, Mr Panetta told reporters before arriving in Tokyo on an Asian tour. "We do have a major presence in the region," he said.

"Having said that we've enhanced that with Fast (Fleet Anti-Terrorism Security Team) teams and others so that if they are requested, they can respond more quickly." But the Pentagon chief said at the moment there was not a need for dispatching additional forces to the region beyond what was requested by the State Department to safeguard diplomatic outposts.

"I don't anticipate a situation right now where we would have to do something on our own," he said. "Our approach right now is not do anything unless requested by the State Department." Two 50-strong US Marine counter-terrorism units were sent to Libya and Yemen after Tuesday's assault in Benghazi to safeguard embassies there.

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