Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Booker: Syrians Urgently Need Aid

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Booker: Syrians Urgently Need Aid

Article excerpt

Sen. Cory Booker defended President Obama and called for expanding humanitarian relief after his first trip to Iraq and Jordan, which included meetings with Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish leaders and a visit to a refugee camp housing more than 80,000 people who fled the Syrian civil war.

"When we see tens and tens of thousands of refugees and how they're suffering and you sit with children -- it's very, very profound, the misery," Booker said via phone from Jordan. "This is really a crisis that calls on the humanity of our planet."

Booker denounced the involvement of Russia and Iran in aiding the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad, saying their efforts prolonged the war, which has to end before refugees can go home.

"I have a much better understanding of the urgency to end the Syrian crisis," Booker said. "It is really destabilizing this region and if it continues for years, it could really have a greater cataclysmic effect on this region."

A Democrat from Newark, Booker is a sought-after surrogate speaker on the campaign trail for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and was said to be under consideration as her running mate. He is also seen as a rising star in the party who might have future national ambitions, and overseas trips to get a firsthand grounding in international affairs are generally seen as a prerequisite to such efforts.

Booker, who traveled to Israel, Turkey and Saudi Arabia with seven other senators in January -- including Virginia's Tim Kaine, who was Clinton's vice presidential pick -- took his latest trip with only two members of his staff. He was due to have further fact- finding meetings and tours in Israel before returning home Thursday.

He made his comments Friday, and The Record agreed to withhold publication because of security considerations about revealing his location earlier.

Booker's travel in Iraq included meetings in Baghdad with Prime Minister Haider Adi and in Erbil with the president of the Iraqi Kurdistan Region, Masoud Barzani, his office said. …

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