Mideast unrest needs `diplomatic` response: Gates

US defence secretary plays down any chance of sending troops to Middle East.

Washington: US Defence Secretary Robert Gates told lawmakers on Wednesday that unrest in Egypt and across the Middle East is "a diplomatic challenge" and played down any chance of sending US troops.

"The kinds of instability that we`re seeing in the Middle East now, it is difficult for me to imagine circumstances in which we would send US ground forces in any of those situations," he said.

"It`s primarily a diplomatic challenge for us," Gates told the House of Representatives` Armed Services Committee amid turmoil in Egypt, Bahrain, Libya, Iran and across the region.

Gates also praised the Egyptian military`s "professionalism" in that country`s political crisis and called their restraint "proof of the value" of US military aid and training over the past three decades.

The secretary had been asked by Republican Representative Joe Wilson whether the sometimes violent unrest in the region might "require more boots on the ground”.

Bureau Report