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US lawmaker makes secret trip to Syria

Gabbard has called for Assad to be kept in power [AFP]

Date of publication: 19 January, 2017

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The US congresswoman who has argued for Assad to be kept in power has now taken a trip to Syria, in what her office is calling a "fact-finding" mission.

US Democratic lawmaker Tulsi Gabbard has made a secret trip to Syria, it was revealed Wednesday, two months after she sat down with Donald Trump to warn against further US involvement in the country’s conflict.

The Hawaii congresswoman has frequently criticised President Barack Obama’s policy on Syria, and even called for embattled President Bashar al-Assad to be kept in power.

Speaking to CNN in November 2015, Gabbard called for the US to stop it’s "illegal, counter-productive war to overthrow the Syrian government of Assad."

"I don't think Assad should be removed," Gabbard said. "If Assad is removed and overthrown, ISIS [Islamic State group], al-Qaeda, al-Nusra, these Islamic extremist groups will walk straight in and take over all of Syria ... they will be even stronger."

Gubbard’s spokeswoman, Emily Latimer, said Wednesday that the congresswoman, who is a major in the Army National Guard, "has long been committed to peace and ending counterproductive, interventionist wars."

"As a member of the Armed Services and Foreign Affairs Committees, and as an individual committed to doing all she can to promote and work for peace, she felt it was important to meet with a number of individuals and groups including religious leaders, humanitarian workers, refugees and government and community leaders," Latimer said in a statement.

Latimer did not say if Gabbard met with Assad.

In her November meeting with Trump, Gabbard warned against escalating the civil war in Syria by establishing a no-fly zone to protect civilians from regime and Russian bombing.

She has said she believes that creating such a safe zone off limits to military aircraft could bring the US into direct conflict with Russia and result in nuclear war.

Gabbard's trip was first reported by Foreign Policy.

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