Dennis Kucinich

After praising Syria following a meeting in Damascus with President Bashar Assad, Democratic presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich declared he will not visit troops in Iraq during his Middle East tour because he considers the American military presence in Iraq to be illegal.

“I feel the United States is engaging in an illegal occupation … I don’t want to bless that occupation with my presence,” Kucinich said in Lebanon, according to the Associated Press. “I will not do it.”

The Ohio congressman accused the Bush administration of destabilizing the Middle East and praised Syria for receiving Iraqi refugees.

“What most people are not aware of is that Syria has taken in more than 1.5 million Iraqi refugees,” Kucinich said, according to the AP. “The Syrian government has actually shown a lot of compassion in keeping its doors open and being a host for so many refugees.”

Kucinich said Assad was receptive to his ideas of “strength through peace.”

The Democratic lawmaker plans to ask U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to respond to “dire conditions in southern Lebanon.

He pointed in particular to Israeli cluster bombs remaining from the 2006 war with Hezbollah that have killed more than 30 and injured at least 200 since the end of the conflict.

As WND reported in April, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Syria to meet with Assad was lauded by terrorist leaders in the region as “brave” and “very appreciated.”

Syria openly hosts top leaders of Palestinian terror organizations, including Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

At a press conference after her April meeting, Pelosi said that during her talks with Assad she “determined that the road to Damascus is the road to peace.”

“We came in friendship, hope,” she said.

Israel says Syria, which signed a military alliance with Iran, has allowed large quantities of weapons to be transported from its borders to the Lebanese-based Hezbollah militia. Damascus has been accused of supporting the insurgency against U.S. troops in Iraq, generating unrest in Lebanon and has been widely blamed for the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

President Bush has criticized visits by Pelosi and other lawmakers, saying they sent “mixed messages” to the region and undermine U.S. policy.

“Photo opportunities and/or meetings with President Assad lead the Assad government to believe they’re part of the mainstream of the international community,” Bush told reporters in Washington after Pelosi’s April visit. “In fact, they’re a state sponsor of terror.”

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