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Pelosi, Lantos defend trip

U.S. Reps. Nancy Pelosi and Tom Lantos defended their recent diplomatic trip to the Middle East, with Lantos suggesting they follow up by meeting with Iran’s president. According to j. the Jewish news weekly of Northern California, the Democratic representatives from California lashed out at White House criticism that the trip had undermined and misrepresented U.S. and Israeli foreign policy in visiting Syrian President Bashar Assad. “I do not know whether it was more pathetic or more hypocritical to have criticism for opening a dialogue when two days prior to our visit, three Republicans visited with Assad,” Lantos, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said at a joint news conference Tuesday in San Francisco. “I was appalled by the attempt by the administration to minimize and mischaracterize the nature of the mission.” Lantos and Pelosi, speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, said that Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert had requested they pass on messages to Assad. “At the time we spoke with Prime Minister Olmert, he asked us to carry a message to Syria that Israel would be ready to resume negotiations if and when Syria stopped its support for terror groups like Hamas and Hezbollah,” Pelosi said, according to j.Olmert’s message to Assad via Pelosi prompted an immediate “clarification” from Olmert’s office saying that “what was discussed with the House speaker did not include any change in Israel’s policy, as it has been presented to international parties involved in the matter.” The statement stressed that Olmert had told Pelosi that Israel continued to regard Syria as “part of the axis of evil and a party encouraging terrorism in the entire Middle East.”The San Francisco Chronicle quoted Lantos as saying he would be willing to speak with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. “Speaking just for myself, I would be ready to get on a plane tomorrow morning because however objectionable, unfair and inaccurate many of [Ahmadinejad's] statements are, it is important that we have a dialogue with him,” Lantos was quoted as saying. “Speaking for myself, I’m ready to go – and knowing the speaker, I think that she might be.”Pelosi was not planning any such trip, www.talkingpointsmemo.com reported. “The Speaker has no intention of going to Iran,” the blog quoted Pelosi’s office as saying afterward. “She has great respect for Mr. Lantos, who is the only Holocaust
survivor in the Congress and a staunch supporter of Israel, and who
would like to go to begin a dialogue there, as the bipartisan Iraq
Study Group recommended.”

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