Congressmen press on lawsuits

Congressmen urged the Bush administration not to intervene in lawsuits American terror victims have won against the Palestinian Authority.

In a letter Thursday to Condoleezza Rice, the U.S. secretary of state, a bipartisan slate of eight U.S. senators expressed opposition to “government interference with the victims’ legal rights.”

Separately, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen grilled Rice Wednesday on the natter at a congressional hearing.

“We have a pending issue about the U.S. victims of Palestinian terrorism and so far the P.A. and the PLO have refused to pay those judgments of those U.S. victims and recent reports indicate that the State Department may issue a statement in favor of the P.A. efforts to avoid paying hundreds of millions of dollars in judgments won by American victims in U.S. courts, and I would hope that that would not happen,” Ros-Lehtinen said.

A federal court in December asked the government for its opinion on a Palestinian Authority effort to put aside the awards, collectively amounting to hundreds of millions of dollars, saying it could bankrupt the authority at a time it is facing down extremists and negotiating peace.

Families of victims killed in attacks in Israel and the West Bank areas and survivors of the attacks were in Washington this week to meet with top Bush administration lawyers and with Congress members to lobby against any intervention.

Reports had suggested that the Bush administration leaned toward intervening on the P.A.’s behalf, but officials told the families that there was no decision yet.

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