Wire Service: AP
WASHINGTON (Map, News) - Rep. Keith Ellison, the first Muslim member of Congress, arrived in Israel Friday as part of what his office called a "goodwill mission" to the Middle East.
The nine-day congressional trip, led by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., will include meetings with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. The group plans to visit Syria, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia as well.
"U.S. Rep. Ellison's life has been committed to the promotion of peace," said Ellison's spokesman, Rick Jauert. "His very presence on this important trip is a significant step in forwarding that agenda."
The Bush administration had asked Pelosi not to visit Syria, and White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said Pelosi "should take a step back and think about the message that it sends," calling Syria a "state sponsor of terror."