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US Lawmakers Approve Foreign Measures on Way to Adjournment


As they move toward adjournment, U.S. House lawmakers have approved several pieces of legislation dealing with the Middle East, Iran and other issues. VOA's Dan Robinson reports from Capitol Hill.

It is not unusual before the end of a session for both chambers of Congress to rush action on international relations bills that lawmakers were unable to bring to consideration earlier.

This year is no exception as the House of Representatives debated measures dealing with Lebanon, U.S. assistance to the Palestinian Authority, Iran, Belarus and Nepal.

A resolution condemning the assassination in Lebanon of anti-Syrian politician Pierre Gemayel and expressing support for democracy in Lebanon prompted strong statements from House lawmakers.

The House also approved a Senate version of a bipartisan measure blocking U.S. funding for the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority, until Hamas agrees to recognize Israel, renounce violence and dismantle terrorist infrastructure.

Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen is a Florida Republican.

"The U.S. must isolate the Hamas-led government financially and diplomatically, through implementing this bill," said Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.

House lawmakers condemn the Iranian government for playing host to what it calls an international conference next week aimed at reinforcing the views of its president that the Holocaust was exaggerated.

Congressman Tom Lantos, a Holocaust survivor himself and future chairman of the House International Relations Committee, points to what he calls lunatic statements by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

"Iran's Ahmadinejad not only wants the world to forget the past," said Tom Lantos. "He also wants it to be revised in the hope that history will be repeated with the destruction of Israel, and the Jews."

The resolution urges the United Nations to formally repudiate Iranian anti-Semitic statements at the conference, and hold accountable U.N. member states that encourage or echo such statements.

Other legislation contains strong language on the political and human rights situation in Belarus, and in the Himalayan Kingdom of Nepal.

Lawmakers renewed the 2004 Belarus Democracy Act, authorizing funding until 2008 in support of democracy and human rights there.

New Jersey Republican Chris Smith noted President Bush's recent statements on Belarus, and says Congress continues to stand behind freedom there.

"This bill demonstrates the sustained U.S. support for Belarus' independence," noted Chris Smith. "We seek to encourage those struggling for democracy and respect for human rights, in the face of a formidable pressure and personal risks from this anti-democratic regime."

Lawmakers provide for certain economic and U.S. entry sanctions until the Lukashenko government releases political prisoners, accounts for opposition leaders and journalists, and stops political harassment, and they support radio and television broadcasting to Belarus.

The House also expresses support for democracy in Nepal, and the comprehensive peace agreement signed last month by the government and communist party.

Republican Congressman Jim Walsh underscores the importance of a resolution encouraging a political process leading to new elections and a draft constitution.

"The progress to date is commendable and there is cause for optimism," said Jim Walsh. "But there is much work to be done. Agreements are worth little, if they go unimplemented. And the Maoists, in particular, continue to engage in behavior that calls into question their commitment to nonviolence and multi-party democracy."

The non-binding measure calls on Nepal's Maoists to lay down their arms and adhere strictly to commitments with the Seven Party Alliance government.

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