House Education and Labor Chairman George Miller, D-Martinez, was part of a bipartisan delegation visiting Pakistan and Afghanistan. And Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, was part of a bipartisan delegation that spent three days in Sudan, visiting with government officials and refugees in an effort to stem the genocide in the war-torn Darfur region.
"The situation in Darfur is deteriorating, more and more people are dying and even humanitarian aid workers are at risk," Lee said in a statement issued Friday. "The day before our delegation arrived, five African Union soldiers were killed in Darfur."
Lee's delegation, led by Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., made a brief stop in Greece before proceeding to Sudan.
Members spent the first day in Southern Sudan's Juba, meeting with President of Southern Sudan and First Vice President of Sudan Salva Kiir as well as the widow of former Sudanese vice president John Garang, who died in a 2005 helicopter
crash. The 10 provinces of Southern Sudan were given some autonomy under a 2005 pact to cool the nation's civil war; a referendum on independence is scheduled for 2011.
The delegation went to North Darfur the next day, visiting the El Salaam Internally Displaced Persons Camp and meeting with Major General Luke Aprezi, commander of the African Union Mission in Sudan. The region's conflict, in which Sudan's central government in Khartoum has backed Arab militias known as Janjaweed in their attacks on local villages, is estimated to have killed at least 180,000 and displaced at least 2 million.
On the third day, the delegation was briefed in Khartoum, Sudan's capital, by the U.S. Embassy, nongovernmental organizations, the United Nations' special representative in the region, and African Union Ambassador Sam Ibok.
"It is critical that the UN 'hybrid' force be allowed in as peacekeepers," Lee said Friday. "The Sudanese government's refusal to allow the international forces in to protect the lives of civilians is outrageous and the world community must not accept this."
Lee, who has sponsored bills to promote divestment and to ban U.S. government contracts from companies whose business in Sudan supports the genocide, said the United States must step up its efforts to end the violence.
From Khartoum, the delegation went to Cairo, Egypt. "We discussed the issue of Darfur in detail with Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak and other Egyptian officials, and urged them to use their influence with the Sudanese government to help stop the atrocities," Lee said.
The delegation was in Germany on Friday, touring the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center and visiting hospitalized service members.
Miller's delegation led by Rep. John Tierney, D-Mass., chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on National Security and Foreign Affairs was one of three to visit Pakistan this week and meet with President General Pervez Musharraf; it then went on to Afghanistan.
Daniel Weiss, Miller's chief of staff, said Friday the trip's purpose "was to look into security issues and the progress of U.S. military efforts in Afghanistan." Miller will offer more details Monday at a news conference in Concord.
The two other delegations visiting Pakistan this week were led by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Silvestre Reyes, D-Texas, and by U.S. Sen. John McCain,
R-Ariz., the Senate Armed Services Committee's ranking Republican.
Pelosi, D-San Francisco; Lantos, D-San Mateo; and the rest of their delegation visited Israel, where Pelosi addressed the Knesset and met with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Sunday before proceeding to Syria, where Pelosi met with President Bashar Assad in Damascus against President Bush's wishes. A Republican delegation visited Damascus days earlier.
From Syria, Pelosi's and Lantos's delegation went to Saudi Arabia for meetings with King Abdullah as well as that nation's unelected advisory council.
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