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Thursday, April 17, 2003

Westport Connection Gets Chris Shays

Westport Connection Gets Chris Shays into Iraq
The State Department didnt want him there. Neither did the U.S. military. But Congressman Chris Shays got into Iraq today thanks to his Westport connections.

The Republican, whose district includes Westport and much of Fairfield County, managed to cross into Iraq from Kuwait with a convoy of aid workers from the Westport-based charity Save the Children, according to an AP report.

Shays, the first member of Congress to enter Iraq since most of the fighting there ended, told the AP in a phone call from Kuwait that other U.S. lawmakers meeting with military leaders in Kuwait were told they could not go to Iraq.

“I had to use the Save the Children’s network to get in. And (the State Department) led me to believe I was doing something that they didn’t want me to do,” he said. “I saw a lot of poverty, I saw a lot of bad living conditions. I just wish other members of Congress had seen what I got to see,” he told the AP.

Shays said aid organizations are frustrated because they are being curtailed by the military due to security concerns, and their access to the needy residents of Iraq has been limited to just one community, Umm Qasr. That is where he spent most of today.

Save the Children workers have been going into Iraq for about 10 days, and are concentrating on getting propane cooking fuel to residents in Umm Qasr. They are hoping to send representatives to Basra on Saturday, the AP said.

Shays is on a 10-day Middle East tour that will take him to Jordan, Israel and the West Bank, where he plans to meet with Palestinian business leaders, clergy and civil rights advocates.



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