House Speaker Pelosi visits Saudi Arabia

Pelosi, the first woman House speaker, said she had not discussed King Abdullah's recent criticism of the U.S. occupation of Iraq, focusing instead on praise for the king's Mideast peace initiative, and efforts to quell conflicts in Somalia and Darfur.

House Speaker Pelosi visits Saudi Arabia

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday that she raised theissue of Saudi Arabia's lackof female politicians with Saudi government officials on the last stop of her Mideast tour.

Pelosi, the first woman House speaker, said she had not discussed KingAbdullah's recent criticism of the U.S. occupation of Iraq,focusing instead on praise for the king's Mideast peace initiative, and effortsto quell conflicts in Somalia and Darfur.

She met with the king Wednesday and with several members of the ShuraCouncil, an unelected advisory assembly named by the king, on Thursday.

Asked if she had discussed the lack of women on the council, she toldreporters, "The issue has been brought up in our discussions with theSaudis on this trip."

Pelosi arrived in Saudi Arabiafrom Syria,where she defied the White House's Middle East policy by meeting with PresidentBashar Assad and saying "the road to Damascusis a road to peace." The Bush administration has rejected direct talkswith Damascusand criticized Pelosi for her visit.

Pelosi was met at the Riyadhairport by officials including Abdul-Rahman al-Zamel, the head of theSaudi-American friendship committee at the Shura Council. He described thespeaker's visit as a "breakthrough" and praised the inclusion of thefirst Muslim member of Congress, U.S. Rep. KeithEllison, D-Minn., in her delegation.

Ihsan Abu-Holeiqa, a member of the council, said the meeting with Pelosi Thursdayincluded discussion of the new difficulties Saudis have in getting U.S. visas,with some waiting four to five months. The lengthy process followed the Sept.11 attacks carried out by 19 hijackers, 15 of them Saudis.

"We told her there should be some movement on the visa issue because,while we understand the security needs, the situation is unacceptable,"said Abu-Holeiqa.

Al-Zamel also praised Pelosi's visit to Syria,saying Syria"is part of this Arab world, part of the issues to be resolved, and toignore people gets you nowhere."

Pelosi was the highest-ranking American politician to visit Syria sincerelations began to deteriorate in 2003. Then-U.S. Secretary of State ColinPowellwent to Damascusin May 2003.

Pelosi's visit heightened tensions between the Bush administration andcongressional Democrats, who have stepped up their push for change in U.S. policy in the Mideast and the Iraq war.

But Democrats — and some Republicans — said the lack of dialogue had closeddoors to possible progress in resolving Mideastcrises.

"We came in friendship, hope, and determined that the road to Damascus is a road topeace," said Pelosi, who met for three hours with Assad.

Assad has repeatedly said over the past year that Damascusis willing to negotiate with Israel,insisting the talks must lead to the return of the Golan Heights, seized by Israel in the1967 Mideast War.

"He's ready to engage in negotiations for peace with Israel,"Pelosi said of the Syrian leader.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 20 Eylül 2018, 18:16
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