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(The Hill)Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) gave a press conference in Syria this week and appeared to heap praise upon Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who is being widely criticized for the brutal crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrations in that country. Kucinich said his words were mistranslated.

Kucinich embarked on a trip, which he called a “fact-finding mission,” to Syria and Lebanon this week, even as prominent Republicans are calling upon the Obama administration to recall the U.S. ambassador to Syria because of the repressive actions of the Assad regime.

Kucinich’s plans included meetings with the presidents of both Syria and Lebanon. He met with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Monday. According to the State Department, Kucinich was not accompanied at the meeting by Robert Ford, the U.S. Ambassador to Syria.

“Nor has he given us a debrief, nor was he carrying any administration messages,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Tuesday.

A story by the Syrian Arab News Agency on Tuesday has Kucinich at a press conference in Syria taking a highly controversial position toward al-Assad. In May, the U.S. imposed sanctions against al-Assad as a means of pressuring him to end the violent repression there.

“President al-Assad is highly loved and appreciated by the Syrians,” Kucinich said, according to the Syrian news site. “President Bashar al-Assad cares so much about what is taking place in Syria, which is evident in his effort towards a new Syria and everybody who meets him can be certain of this.”

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