Pelosi meets with Syrian leaders

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi met Syrian government officials Wednesday for talks criticized by the White House as undermining American efforts to isolate the Arab country.

Pelosi meets with Syrian leaders

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi met Syrian governmentofficials Wednesday for talks criticized by the White House as underminingAmerican efforts to isolate the Arab country.

The California Democrat and accompanying members of Congress began their dayof talks with Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem and were expected to meetPresident Bashar Assad later in the day.

Pelosi's visit to Syriawas the latest challenge to the White House by congressional Democrats, who aretaking a more assertive role in influencing policy in the Middle East and the Iraq war.

Bush has said Pelosi's trip signals that the Assad government is part of theinternational mainstream when it is not. The United States says Syria allows Iraqi Sunni insurgentsto operate from its territory, backs the Hezbollah and Hamas groups and istrying to destabilize the Lebanese government. Syria denies the allegations.

"A lot of people have gone to see President Assad ... and yet wehaven't seen action. He hasn't responded," he told reporters soon aftershe arrived in DamascusTuesday. "Sending delegations doesn't work. It's simply beencounterproductive."

Pelosi did not comment on Bush's remarks before heading from the airport to Damascus' historic Old City,where she mingled with Syrians in a market.

Wearing a flowered head scarf and a black abaya robe, Pelosi visited the8th-century Omayyad Mosque. She made the sign of the cross in front of anelaborate tomb which is said to contain the head of John the Baptist. About 10percent of Syria's18 million people are Christian.

At the nearby outdoor Bazouriyeh market, Syrians crowded around, offeringher dried figs and nuts and chatting with her. She bought some coconut sweetsand looked at jewelry and carpets.

Democrats have argued that the U.S.should engage its top rivals in the Mideast — Iranand Syria — to make headwayin easing crises in Iraq, Lebanon and theIsraeli-Arab peace process. Last year, the bipartisan Iraq Study Grouprecommended talks with the two countries.

Bush rejected the recommendations. But in February, the U.S. joined a gathering of regional diplomats inBaghdad that included Iranand Syria for talks on Iraq.

Visiting neighboring Lebanonon Monday, Pelosi shrugged off White House criticism of her trip to Syria,noting that Republican lawmakers met Assad on Sunday without comment from theBush administration.

She said she hoped to rebuild lost confidence between Washington and Damascusand will tell Syrian leaders that Israelwill talk peace with them only if Syria stops supporting Palestinians.She has said she will also talk to the Syrians about Iraq,their role in Lebanonand their support for the Hezbollah group.

"We have no illusions but we have great hope," said Pelosi, whomet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank cityof Ramallahearlier Tuesday.

Relations between the U.S.and Syria reached a lowpoint in early 2005 when Washington withdrewits ambassador to Damascusto protest the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.Many Lebanese blamed Syria —which had troops in Lebanonat the time — for the assassination. Damascusdenied involvement.

The isolation, however, has begun to crumble in recent months, with visitsby U.S.lawmakers and some European officials.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 20 Eylül 2018, 18:16