Dennis Kucinich 311.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
US Rep. Dennis Kucinich visited Syria and its beleaguered president on Monday in
what the Ohio Democrat described as a “fact-finding mission” to explore
possibilities for a peaceful resolution to the violence that has rocked the
country for more than three months.
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In a statement on Monday, Kucinich,
64, said he had undertaken the visit after constituents asked him to look into
“conditions on the ground” and whether there is a potential solution to a
situation that is “spinning out of control.”
The representative was
planning to meet with “democracy activists, nongovernmental organizations, small
business owners, civilians as well as government officials,” the statement
Kucinich’s Cleveland-area constituency includes a large
Syria’s state-run SANA news agency said
President Bashar Assad had met with Kucinich and British Conservative MP Brooks
Newmark on Monday.
The Syrian leader “stressed the importance of
differentiating between the people’s legitimate demands to which the state
responded through issuing decrees and laws, and the organized armed groups which
utilized these demands to create chaos and destabilize the country,” and that
Assad had “reviewed the recent events taking place in Syria and the advanced
steps achieved in the comprehensive reform program,” SANA reported.
least 1,300 people have been killed by security forces since the Syrian uprising
broke out in mid-March, rights groups estimate.
On Tuesday, Kucinich said
he had met with people “actively involved” in the opposition, as well as
“I think it’s really important for people
involved in making policy to hear both sides,” he told CNN, before heading to
Lebanon to meet with President Michel Suleiman.
In his 14 years in
Congress, Kucinich – a 2004 and 2008 presidential candidate – has earned a
reputation as a standard-bearer of the Democratic Party’s most liberal wing, and
has opposed US military intervention in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya.
2007, he launched impeachment proceedings against president George
Bush and vice president Dick Cheney for allegedly misleading Congress
about Iraq’s putative nuclear weapons program.
That same year, Kucinich
visited Assad. SANA quoted him at the time as recognizing Syria’s “pivotal role
in bolstering security and stability in the region.”
On Monday, the
Atlantic Wire website posted a video clip of an interview on Syrian television
during the visit in which Kucinich praised Assad for showing “a real desire to
play a role in helping to create a peaceful settlement of the conditions in Iraq
as well as a grander approach towards creating peace.”
The website also
quoted an article from last month in Cleveland’s Plain Dealer
Syrian protesters are making legitimate demands for reform, he explained, some
are trying to ‘capitalize on those legitimate demands for reform and use it to
push a violent agenda.’ The violence is preventing Assad from rolling out
democratic reforms, he noted, adding, ‘We also understand that there’s very
serious questions raised about the conduct of the Syrian police, but we also
know the Syrian police were fired upon and that many police were murdered.’”