For the first time in several years, a sitting U.S. Congressman has visited Baghdad. Congressman Nick Rahall says the mission of his delegation is not only to urge Iraq to allow weapons inspectors but to convince the Iraqi people that Americans want peace there.
Nick Rahall, a Democratic representative from West Virginia, says he is on a humanitarian mission Saturday, but that he also intends to urge Baghdad to allow unrestricted access to United Nations weapons inspectors, to avoid war.
"We have to give every measure of doubt toward the peace chance. And that is what I want to give here is peace a chance," the congressman said.
Mr. Rahall's group met with Iraq's health minister and will reportedly meet with Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz. He said they welcome any other opportunities to talk with Iraqi officials.
As a member of Congress, Mr. Rahall will likely have to vote on any Iraqi issues put before Congress in the near future. Because of this, he says, he would like to acquaint himself with what is happening on the ground.
Mr. Rahall is part of a four-person delegation that includes former U.S. Senator James Abourezk. The group also includes James Jennings, a human rights activist and Nick Soloman, head of the Institute of Public Accuracy, which sponsored the trip.
Mr. Rahall said he wants to find out how he can assist in helping meet the medical and nutritional needs of Iraqi citizens. The group visited a hospital earlier and videotaped what they saw.
He also said the delegation wants to tell the Iraqi people that, quote, "the American people for the most part are peace-wagering individuals, not warmongers."
Although Mr. Rahall supported the Gulf War, he questions President George W. Bush's current policy in Iraq.