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ARLINGTON, Va. — Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Thursday that his understanding is Iran has informed the Iraqi government that it will try to stem the flow of Explosively Formed Penetrators into Iraq.

“I don’t know whether to believe them,” Gates said Thursday. “I’ll wait and see.”

He did not say where he learned of these supposed assurances, nor could he say who in Iran might have made such assurances to the Iraqi government.

Known as “EFPs,” the penetrators are a deadly type of roadside bomb that fire a slug of high density metal at between 4,000 and 6,500 miles per hour.

The projectile flies with such velocity that it is up to nine times as powerful as a roadside bomb of similar size made of artillery shells that are rigged to explode.

U.S. government officials have long accused the Quds Force of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps of providing EFPs to insurgents in Iraq, but they have not shown a direct link between the Iranian government and EFP attacks in Iraq.

Asked at a news conference Thursday whether the highest levels of the Iranian government were involved with sending weapons into Iraq, Gates said he believed the leadership of the Quds Force was aware of the flow of weapons into Iraq.

“Whether [Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali] Khamenei … is aware, I think you’d have to say it — say, probably,” Gates said. “But I haven’t seen anything that is definitive along those lines, my guess is that he — that the highest levels are aware.”

“Although I don’t know how they couldn’t be,” added Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The number of EFP attacks has fallen since the summer, said Lt. Gen. Raymond Odierno, commander of Multi-National Corps — Iraq.

Coalition troops encountered 53 EFPs in October, compared with 52 in September, 78 in August and 99 in July, Odierno said at an earlier briefing on Thursday.

It is too early to tell whether this trend means fewer EFPs are flowing into Iraq, Odierno said.

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