Washington: Defence Secretary Robert Gates asked US allies in the Arab world to strengthen their military capabilities and defence cooperation with Washington as a means of pressuring Iran to back off its nuclear program.
In an interview with Al Jazeera that was to be aired Monday, Gates said the United States still favoured diplomatic and economic approaches to the challenges posed by Iran and
its nuclear program.
But, according to a transcript of the interview, Gates said "one of the pathways to get the Iranians to change their approach on the nuclear issue is to persuade them that moving
down that path will actually jeopardise their security, not enhance it.
"So the more that our Arab friends and allies can strengthen their security capabilities, the more they can strengthen their co-operation, both with each other and with
us, I think sends the signal to the Iranians that this path they`re on is not going to advance Iranian security but in fact could weaken it," he said.
Gates said he did not know how much US arms sales to the region now totalled, but disputed a 100 billion figure cited by Al-Jazeera as sounding "very high to me."
The defence secretary also questioned whether Iran had gained lasting clout in Iraq, and by extension in the region, as a result of the 2003 US invasion that toppled Iraqi leader
Saddam Hussein and brought the country`s Shiite majority to power.