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Issa Defends Record on Mideast

Rep. Darrell Issa, the San Diego Republican who is funding the recall drive against Governor Gray Davis, says his record on Israel is solid, and Democratic efforts to depict him as a pro-Palestinian extremist are “a smear.”

Issa, a third-generation Lebanese-American, met with Yasser Arafat in April along with two other congressman in an attempt to get him to stop blocking Palestinian reforms. He defended that effort as “appropriate,” arguing that the administration’s opposition to contacts with Arafat effectively left the Palestinian leader in the dark about “what he must do” to satisfy American aims.

Issa said a speech he had made in Beirut in October 2001, calling for Hezbollah to disband, had been distorted to appear pro-Hezbollah in Lebanese and Iranian newspaper accounts. As proof, he provided an Associated Press report, which stated that Issa had “told reporters that for the United States to remove Hezbollah from its list of terrorist organizations, the Lebanese-based group must renounce terrorism and confine itself to its humanitarian and parliamentary activities.”

On domestic issues, Issa described himself as “pro-life” and a “supporter of the Second Amendment,” but said he had never sought to overturn California’s gun control laws. He said he has never supported offshore drilling, but said the country might legitimately tap offshore oil resources “as a strategic reserve in time of need.”

He said that his candidacy is about “making California a safe place for business and jobs” and said that Davis had stinted the education system in his budget. He said that more than a million Californians agreed with him that Davis had cooked the state’s books.

“If you want to call that a vast, right-wing conspiracy, 30% of them are Democrats,” he said.

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