Senator says Iraqi PM won't call Hezbollah terrorists

Published: Wednesday July 26, 2006

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(Updated to include DNC Chairman Howard Dean's comments on Iraqi PM)

United States Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) said today that Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki refused to answer his questions about whether or not Hezbollah is a terrorist organization, according to a transcript acquired by RAW STORY.

"This morning I asked him directly, 'Do you believe that Hezbollah is a terrorist organization?'" Durbin told reporters after Maliki's address to Congress. "He did not respond. He would not respond to that question."

Durbin claims that the Iraqi foreign minister told him later that, "at a meeting of Arab nations they had joined with others in being critical of what Hezbollah has done."

"I think," Durbin concluded, "that is the extent of the statements that will be made by the Iraqi delegation."

Durbin went on to stress that he's more concerned about the state of Iraq, where casualties continue to be higher than those in Lebanon:

"During the last 14 or 15 days, we have watched the news 24/7 about the violence in Lebanon and Israel. During that period of time, about 30 civilians a day are being killed, which is a terribly high number. During that same period of time, approximately 100 civilians a day are being killed in Iraq. That is not covered as closely... In that period of time that I just referred to, the Israelis lost 22 soldiers and have broke the hearts of the families and people of that great nation. In that same period, the American people lost 24 soldiers in Iraq."

At a business leader gathering on Wednesday in Florida, Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean called al-Maliki an "anti-Semite," according to the Associated Press.

"The Iraqi prime minister is an anti-Semite," said Dean.

"We don't need to spend $200 and $300 and $500 billion bringing democracy to Iraq to turn it over to people who believe that Israel doesn't have a right to defend itself and who refuse to condemn Hezbollah," Dean added.

The Associated Press also reported that the "Republican National Committee rejected Dean's criticism of Al-Maliki."

"It is incredibly troubling that Howard Dean would seek to score cheap political points by attacking the democratically elected prime minister of Iraq," said the RNC.