AFP: US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, fresh from a controversial trip to Syria last week, has “no intention” of visiting Iran, her office said Wednesday, as the White House condemned any such plan.
WASHINGTON, April 11, 2007 (AFP) – US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, fresh from a controversial trip to Syria last week, has “no intention” of visiting Iran, her office said Wednesday, as the White House condemned any such plan.
“The Speaker has no intention of going to Iran,” Pelosi spokesman Brendan Daly said by e-mail after a senior lawmaker and close ally who accompanied her to Damascus seemed to float the idea in a press conference.
White House spokeswoman Dana Perino had said earlier that, with fresh US charges that Iran is helping to kill US forces in Iraq, “it’s troubling that some Democrats are making travel arrangements to visit Tehran.”
Speculation arose late Tuesday when House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Tom Lantos told reporters he had been trying for more than a decade to get a visa to visit Iran, declaring: “Speaking just for myself, I’m ready to go.”
“And knowing the speaker, I think she might be,” said Lantos, a Hungarian-born Holocaust survivor who joined Pelosi in her trip to Damascus to meet with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad over stiff White House objections.
On Wednesday, Pelosi and Senate Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid made clear that, while they were not going to Iran, they favored more dialogue with Tehran as called for by a heavyweight US commission last year.
The Iraq Study Group led by former secretary of state James Baker said the United States must reach out directly to its two regional foes if it is to succeed in quelling deadly violence in Iraq.
“There should be, as the Iraqi Study Group said, strenuous, diplomatic negotiations with all the parties mentioned. I personally am not going to Iran, but that’s up to individual members,” said Reid.
Pelosi “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 (Iran),” as called for by the panel, said Daly.
“However objectionable, unfair and inaccurate many of (President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s) statements are, it is important that we have a dialogue with him,” Lantos said at a press conference with Pelosi late Tuesday.
Pelosi did not contradict Lantos and slammed Ahmadinejad’s previous denial of the Holocaust as “so repulsive that they are outside the circle of civilized human behavior.”
She also noted that Lantos, the chairman of the important House Foreign Affairs Committee, had called for dialogue with the Islamic republic.
“I think that speaks volumes about the importance of dialogue,” she said.
Pelosi praised Lantos for having brought “great experience, knowledge and judgment” to their trip to Syria, Israel, the Palestinian Territories and Saudi Arabia.
President George W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and other top US officials lashed out at Pelosi, accusing her publicly of undermining the tough US line on Syria, which Washington labels a state sponsor of terrorism.
At the same time, the White House generally muted criticism of Republican allies who traveled to Syria in the days before and after Pelosi’s visit.