President Bush says the opposition leader in the House of Representatives is sending the wrong signals to America's friends and foes by visiting Syria for talks with President Bashar Assad. VOA White House Correspondent Scott Stearns has the story.
President Bush says a bipartisan congressional delegation now in Syria will not help U.S. foreign policy. "Sending delegations hasn't worked. It has just simply been counterproductive.," he said.
The president told reporters in the White House Rose Garden that lots of people have gone to see President Assad but those meetings have accomplished nothing. He expects the same from this delegation, led by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. "Going to Syria sends mixed signals, signals in the region and of course mixed signals to President Assad. And by that I mean photo opportunities and or meetings with President Assad lead the Assad government to believe they are part of the mainstream of the international community, when in fact they are a state sponsor of terror," he said.
President Bush says Syria is not stopping foreign fighters from entering Iraq, has done little or nothing to rein in militant groups Hamas and Hezbollah, and is destabilizing democracy in Lebanon.
Speaker Pelosi's delegation is scheduled to meet with President Assad Wednesday. Speaking to reporters in Lebanon before her arrival in Syria, Pelosi said it is important to meet with Syrian officials to discuss the country's role in supporting Hamas and Hezbollah. "We [will] go there [Syria] and will be talking about the overarching issue, the fight against terrorism and the role that Syria can play to help or to hinder that goal," he said.
Pelosi says the trip is related to her responsibility, as a member of Congress, for U.S. national security and could help the course of a U.N. tribunal investigating Syria's involvement in the assassination of Lebanese politicians. "That is one of the issues that we are going to bring up with them and of course the role of Syria in Iraq, the role of Syria supporting Hamas and Hezbollah, the role of Syria in so many respects that we think it could be a vast improvement," he said.
The bipartisan Iraq Study Group urged the Bush administration to open direct talks with Syria and Iran. President Bush has refused, saying again Tuesday that the best way to deal with Syria is in broader, multi-lateral discussions about regional security.
The president also repeated his promise to veto spending bills for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq because Democrats in the House and Senate included timetables for a troop withdrawal from Iraq.
Mr. Bush says that undermines the authority of commanders in the field and would embolden America's enemies.
A public opinion poll by Newsweek magazine says a majority of Americans favor setting a deadline for withdrawal. Fifty seven percent of those surveyed support getting U.S. troops out of Iraq by March of next year, and nearly two-thirds disapprove of the president's handling of the war.