US Defense Chief Heads For Europe

WASHINGTON, DC -- US Defense Secretary Robert Gates left for Europe late Saturday for a series of high-stakes meetings on sensitive issues such as Washington's planned anti-missile installations and US ties to Turkey, AFP reported.

US Defense Secretary Robert Gates

Gates is to spend Sunday and Monday in Ukraine, a senior Pentagon official said. He will meet its Western-leaning President Viktor Yushchenko and seek his backing for the missile shield plans in the face of fierce opposition from neighboring Russia.

Yushchenko, who has struggled with challenges from political rivals more sympathetic to Moscow than to his pro-Western stance, has ruled out allowing parts of the US missile shield in Ukraine, but has not condemned the plan.

On Tuesday Gates will visit the Czech Republic, where the United States aims to put a radar station as part of its Europe-based shield against possible missile attacks from countries such as Iran and North Korea.

On Wednesday and Thursday Gates will be in the Netherlands for an informal meeting of NATO defense ministers. He is expected to ask countries to send more troops to patrol Afghanistan, where international forces are battling an insurgency by extremists of the ousted Taliban regime.

Gates' tour wraps up on Friday with a visit to Heidelberg in Germany, where the US Army has its European headquarters.

Source: FOCUS Information