March 30, 2007— -- ABC News has learned that Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi plans to visit Syria next week to meet with President Bashar Al-Assad. The visit will make Pelosi the most senior U.S. official ever to meet with President Assad.
White House spokesperson Dana Perino strongly criticized Pelosi's planned visit, saying, "We think it is a really bad idea."
"People should take a stop back and think about the message it sends and the message it sends to our allies," Perino said.
Pelosi will be traveling to Syria has part of a congressional delegation with five other members of the House of Representatives, including one Republican.
As part of the trip, she also plans to visit several other countries in the region, including Israel, where she will deliver a speech to the Knesset.
Pelosi's visit to Syria would come as the United States has severed high-level contacts with Assad's government. The administration recalled the U.S. ambassador to Damascus after the February 2005 assassination of Rafik Hariri in Lebanon. There has been very little high- or mid-level U.S. contact with Syria since then.
Last December, a delegation of four senators visited Syria, a trip that was made over the objections of the Bush Administration. At the time, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice criticized the trip as unhelpful.
Traveling with Pelosi will be Reps. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., Nick Rahall, D-West Virginia, Tom Lantos, D-Calif., Henry Waxman, D-Calif., and David Hobson, R-Ohio.