Hoyer Has Dinner with Maryland Troops in Iraq

Reviews Preparations For Iraqi, Palestinian Elections

Congressman Steny Hoyer (D-MD) was part of a congressional delegation that traveled to the Middle East last week to assess ongoing preparations for the upcoming national elections in Iraq and the Palestinian Authority. Hoyer also had dinner with troops from Maryland including Spec. Ronnie Cole, from Waldorf, where he talked to them about their experience and thanked them for their service. Congressman Hoyer also spent time with Prince George's County Delegate Anthony Brown, D-District, 25, who serves as the General Assembly's majority whip. Brown serves with the National Guard. Photos available.

"I am honored by the bravery, perseverance, and service of our military servicemen and women serving in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere around the world, particularly during the holiday season," said Congressman Hoyer. "I was privileged to have the opportunity to share a meal with troops from Maryland who are serving in the field, to discuss with them their experience, and to talk to them about their families back home. Our entire nation joins in expressing our deep appreciation for their service and for the sacrifice they and their families make every day," added Hoyer.

In advance of the scheduled January 30th elections in Iraq, Congressman Hoyer met with Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, as well as members of the Independent Election Commission of Iraq, and Carlos Valenzuela, who heads the UN election team. In Ramallah, Hoyer also met with Saeb Erekat, Minister of Local Government and the Palestinian Authority Chief Negotiator, and discussed progress toward democratic elections on January 9th with the General Counsel of the Central Election Committee, Rami Hamdallah. The Central Election Committee is the independent body responsible for implementing elections in the Palestinian Authority. In Jerusalem, Hoyer discussed Israeli security concerns during the Palestinian elections with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, as well as the Leader of the Labor Party, Shimon Peres.

"During the course of our meetings it was clear that substantial time constraints, logistical issues and serious security concerns exist," said Hoyer. "If the upcoming elections are to be credible, all parties must work together to overcome these challenges. If that is done I believe it is possible to take a positive step toward achieving the goal of a free and democratic Iraq. I am also hopeful that Palestinian elections will result in a new leadership committed to achieving peace with Israel."

In addition to Congressman Hoyer, the delegation included Missouri Congressman Roy Blunt, Oklahoma Congressman Tom Cole, Maryland Congressman Ben Cardin, and Illinois Congressman Mark Kirk. While in Iraq, the Congressmen also met with military leaders responsible for current operations and training Iraqi forces, as well as US Ambassador John Negropante.

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