Peoria Journal Star

July 19, 2006

LaHood urges Israel to show restraint
Lawmaker encouraged by evacuation efforts


WASHINGTON, D.C. - Rep. Ray LaHood, R-Peoria, and other lawmakers of Lebanese descent Tuesday urged the Bush administration to press Israel to show some restraint in its attacks on Lebanon.

After their 90-minute meeting with Assistant Secretary of State David Welch, LaHood said he was encouraged by the administration's efforts to evacuate Americans from Lebanon.

"I expressed my very grave concerns to Secretary Welch about the innocent people that have been killed, about areas of Beirut that have been destroyed that have nothing to do with Hezbollah," LaHood told reporters in a conference call Tuesday.

He said he asked Welch to deliver a message to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and President Bush.

"I told him that I thought that the president and Secretary Rice should say something about more restraint on the part of the Israeli government," LaHood said.

The meeting with Welch, who returned from the Middle East on Monday, was held in the office of Sen. John Sununu, R-N.H.

Since fighting broke out between Israel and Lebanon June 25, as many as 226 people have been killed in Lebanon and 25 in Israel. Israel attacked after the Hezbollah guerrillas attacked a military patrol on the border of Israel, killing three soldiers and capturing two others.

The United States is sending cruise ships to help evacuate stranded Americans, which should speed up the process, LaHood said. About 240 Americans were being flown by helicopter Tuesday from the U.S. embassy in Lebanon to Cyprus, where they could make connecting flights.

LaHood joined Sununu and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., in objecting to the State Department plan to charge Americans for their transportation out of Lebanon.

In the meeting with Welch, Sununu argued that any costs should be waived because "these people are leaving because of the fact that they are in danger of being harmed or being killed," LaHood said. "I believe he took Sununu's point."

Overall, LaHood said he came away from the meeting more optimistic than when he went in.

"I'm encouraged about the evacuation. I'm encouraged that our government has a game plan. I'm encouraged that there are discussions going on with the Israel government about how to get out of this mess," LaHood said.

Other lawmakers participating in the meeting were: Reps. Charles Boustany Jr., R-La., Darrell Issa, R-Calif., and Nick Rahall, D-W.Va.


Dori Meinert can be reached at (202) 737-7686 or