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US military to keep 'strong' role in Mid-East: Panetta

Published on Dec 12, 2012 6:24 AM
US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta (left) poses for a photo as he is greeted by Kuwaiti Defence Minister Sheik Ahmad Al-Khaled Al Sabah, after arriving at Kuwait International Airport in Kuwait City, Dec 11, 2012. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

KUWAIT CITY (AFP) - The US military will retain a "strong presence" in the Middle East despite a strategic shift to Asia, Defence Secretary Leon Panetta said on Tuesday during a visit to Kuwait.

The United States plans to deploy a majority of its naval fleet to the Asia-Pacific along with other advanced weaponry but Mr Panetta insisted that a robust American force would remain in place in the Middle East.

Mr Panetta spoke to reporters aboard his plane travelling to Kuwait City on a two-day visit to discuss bolstering security ties amid tumult in the region and tensions with Iran.

"Let me assure you that the United States is strong enough that we can maintain a strong presence in the Middle East as well as in the Pacific," he said.

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