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Pelosi Presses Women’s Issues in Saudi Arabia as Part of Mideast Tour

BY Admin  April 5, 2007 at 4:45 PM EST

Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and King Abdullah

Instead of wearing the traditional abaya, a long black robe worn by women in Saudi Arabia, Pelosi wore a lavender pantsuit, according to the New York Times. Under Saudi Arabia’s strict form of Islam, women do not hold high positions in public office and face restrictions in the workplace.

During the visit, Pelosi commended the king’s Mideast peace initiative and his efforts in Somalia and Darfur, Sudan. A member of the Shura Council brought up the difficulty of acquiring visas to the United States after tightened post-Sept. 11, 2001, security precautions.

Pelosi said she did not discuss a statement at last month’s Arab Summit by King Abdullah calling the U.S. presence in Iraq “illegitimate.”

The stop in Saudi Arabia on Wednesday marks the last leg of the speaker’s Middle East trip after traveling to Syria to meet with Syrian President Bashar Assad. President Bush criticized her visit saying it would send mixed signals to Syria.

The Bush administration has rejected direct talks with Syria despite recommendations from the Iraq Study Group for the United States to open a dialogue on Iraq with its regional neighbors.

As House speaker — and third in line to the presidency — Pelosi is the highest-ranking official to visit Syria in over two years. She met with Assad for three hours and said she expressed concerns over Syria’s connections to Hezbollah and Hamas and insurgents crossing the border into Iraq.

Pelosi also said that Assad was ready to engage in negotiations with Israel. She met with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert over the weekend in her second visit to Israel since January.

At a dinner in Israel’s parliament building, Pelosi told lawmakers that the United States remains united with Israel.

Some media outlets reported that Pelosi was delivering a peace message from Israel to Syria though Israeli officials said their policy toward Syria remains unchanged. Israel blames Syria for supporting Palestinian militants in the West Bank and Gaza.