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Archive for Friday, April 6, 2007

Rep. Pelosi visits Saudi Arabia

April 6, 2007

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— U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Thursday visited Saudi Arabia's unelected advisory council, the closest thing in the kingdom to a legislature, where she tried out her counterpart's chair - a privilege no Saudi woman can have because women cannot become legislators.

Pelosi, the first female speaker of the House, said she raised the issue of Saudi Arabia's lack of female politicians with Saudi government officials on the last stop of her Mideast tour, but she refrained from criticizing the kingdom over it.

"It's a nice view from here," Pelosi said as she sat in the chair, facing the ornate chamber with its deep blue and yellow chairs and gilded ironwork. "This chair is very comfortable."

U.S. Rep. Tom Lantos, the head of the House Foreign Affairs Committee who was traveling with Pelosi, looked at the gavel in front of her and quipped: "It's a small gavel, Madame Speaker. You may want to wield it."

As Pelosi toured the ornate chamber, controversy over her Wednesday talks with Syrian President Bashar Assad continued. Vice President Dick Cheney said it was "bad behavior on her part" that she gave Assad a message from Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, which Israel later backed away from.

"It was a nonstatement, nonsensical statement and didn't make any sense at all - that she would suggest that those talks could go forward as long as the Syrians conducted themselves as a prime state sponsor of terror," Cheney said in an interview on Rush Limbaugh's radio program.

After her talks with Assad in Damascus, Pelosi said she had delivered a message from Olmert that Israel was ready for peace talks. Assad had replied that "he's ready to engage in negotiations for peace with Israel," Pelosi said Wednesday.

Olmert's office later issued a statement saying such talks could take place only if Syria stopped assisting terror groups. Pelosi had said she would tell the Syrians that Israel would make talks conditional on their cutting ties to Palestinian militants.

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