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US Lawmakers See Increasing Interest in World Affairs - 2001-11-18

A delegation of five U.S. congressmen is traveling throughout the Middle East, hoping to revive Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. The delegation says its mission is twofold. To listen and to press for help in reviving the stalled peace process in the Middle East.

Monday, the delegation meets with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Delegation leader Representative Darrell Issa says Mr. Mubarak will be asked to reassume a leadership role in trying to forge peace between the Israelis and Palestinians. "We look forward to meeting with President Mubarak and asking him for the great indulgence of his effort that he has made in the past, being re-engaged as America re-engages in a very forceful way in the peace process in the Palestinian determination and statehood, as I think you are aware we will be calling for," said Mr. Issa.

The delegation has traveled to Syria and Lebanon. Following meetings in Cairo the group will head for Israel to meet with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

Republican Congressman John Cooksey, a member of the House of Representatives International Relations Committee, said members of Congress and the American people are beginning to understand the importance of international relations. "There are a lot of people in the American public that really have not been engaged in international relations and, even worse, there are a lot of members of congress that not only have not been engaged, but were just not that interested," said Congressman Cooksey. "But I can assure you that the American public and more of the congress today realize the importance of having good international relations with everyone in the world."

Fellow delegation member Congressman Nick Rahall said the United States believes the window of opportunity for re-starting the peace process is now.

The U.S. delegation follows by one day a similar trip being made by a high-level European Union mission. Members of that group are predicting movement in the Middle East peace process within the next few weeks.