Peoria Journal Star
July 29, 2006
LaHood plans trip to Mideast
By Paul M. Krawzak
Copley News Service
WASHINGTON - Rep. Ray LaHood on Friday welcomed President Bush's
support for sending a multinational, U.N.-backed force to
Lebanon to end fighting there and provide humanitarian relief.
"Absolutely," the Peoria Republican, who is of Lebanese descent,
said when asked whether he supported the plan announced Friday
afternoon by Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair.
LaHood, who met earlier in the day with Bush's National Security
Adviser Stephen Hadley, said a cease fire would provide an
opportunity for the different parties to talk and "get started
on an opportunity for peace."
LaHood, whose district is home to many Lebanese-Americans, also
said he's planning a fact-finding trip to Lebanon, Syria and
Israel at the end of August. Hadley encouraged him to go on the
trip, he added.
While supporting Israel's efforts to "root out" Hezbollah, an
Iranian-backed terrorist group fighting Israel in southern
Lebanon, LaHood has been urging the administration to pressure
Israel to limit civilian casualties.
He carried that message to a top State Department official July
18 and repeated it with Hadley on Friday.
"We just laid out in pretty clear terms the notion that we agree
with the administration supporting Israel going in and rooting
out Hezbollah and really going after them in a very, very tough
way," he said.
But LaHood added that the killing of innocent people "who have
no relationship to Hezbollah - has to be brought under control,
and that was something we talked with Hadley about."
Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., another lawmaker of Lebanese
descent, joined LaHood in the meeting with Hadley.
LaHood blamed weak leadership in Lebanon for allowing Hezbollah
to occupy the southern part of the country near Israel's border.
LaHood, who has traveled to Lebanon 10 times since being elected
to Congress, views the upcoming trip to the Middle East as an
opportunity to offer encouragement to the Lebanese government,
as well as talk with Syrian and Israeli officials.
LaHood said he's inviting Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and
lawmakers with Lebanese backgrounds - including Issa, Reps. Nick
Rahall, D-W.Va., and Charles Boustany Jr., R-La. - on the trip.
The House Intelligence Committee, of which LaHood is a member,
would sponsor the visit, he said.