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Rep. Dan Burton leads delegation to kingdom on behalf of parents
The chairman of the House Government Reform Committee will lead a congressional delegation to Saudi Arabia to discuss American citizens who have been kidnapped and taken to the kingdom – some held against their will.
Rep. Dan Burton, R-Ind., whose committee held hearings into the issue June 12, will lead the bipartisan delegation, according to committee staffers. The members will "meet with senior Saudi officials, including Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal," said a statement.
"The delegation's visit presents a historic opportunity to resolve a problem that has led to significant human suffering," said the statement. Burton "hopes that the Saudis will use the opportunity presented to them in a way that will benefit both the United States and Saudi Arabia."
Accompanying Burton will be Rep. Ben Gilman, R-N.Y., chairman of the House International Relations subcommittee on the Middle East, along with Rep. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., Rep. William Delahunt, D-Mass., Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., and Rep. Brian Kerns, R-Ind. The delegation is scheduled to leave today.
Supporters of Burton's efforts, including several parents whose children have been taken to the kingdom, are hopeful he will be successful.
"My daughters are now 23 and 20 years of age, and I have no knowledge of their whereabouts, no communication with them and no knowledge of their lives," said Pat Roush, whose daughters were taken to Saudi Arabia years ago. "I never received a photograph of them in the entire time [they have been] held in Saudi Arabia – almost 17 years."
"Mr. Burton is meeting with top Saudi princes and will request the release of my daughters and others like them," she told WorldNetDaily. "I have 'carried the water' on this issue and am hopeful that my daughters and the other American citizens will be released from the Saudi government."
She said Burton "made a commitment" to get her children out of Saudi Arabia someday.
Roush's daughters – Alia and Aisha al-Gheshayan – were abducted from Roush's care in a Chicago suburb in 1986, in defiance of a U.S. court order, by their father, Khalid al-Gheshayan, when they were 7 and 3, respectively. Since growing into adulthood, however, they have been prevented from leaving the Saudi kingdom and have been subjected to Saudi culture, which is much less respectful of women's rights than is the U.S.
She has said she believes successive U.S. administrations have failed to act decisively to demand the release of her daughters and others held captive because of a "special" military and economic relationship with the kingdom. Washington, she says, wants access to Saudi Arabia so it can project a U.S. military presence in the region and to obtain cheap Saudi oil.
In a letter to the White House yesterday, Burton said President Bush had a "historic opportunity" to help win the release of many of those who have been kidnapped.
"You have an historic opportunity to do something significant to assist these Americans," Burton said. "When you meet with Prince Bandar on Tuesday ? you will be able to convey your concerns about these cases to him."
"I ask you to do this on behalf of a number of our citizens who have not, in the past, had the full support of their government," said the Indiana Republican. "Please speak out and tell Prince Bandar that the issue of kidnapped U.S. children and detained U.S. citizens must be resolved."
Burton said he asked Bush "two months ago" for assistance, but "some of your subordinates chose to misrepresent what was at stake."
"You, however, are now presented with an opportunity to succeed where others before you have chosen to do little or nothing," said Burton.
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