N.J. Congressman Visits Belgrade
Apr. 20, 1999
WASHINGTON (AP) _ Rep. James Saxton, R-N.J., has wrapped up a personal three-day mission to Belgrade, an aide said Tuesday. A spokesman for House Speaker Dennis Hastert said Saxton's trip to Yugoslavia's capital was unauthorized, and he did it on his own.
Saxton's spokesman, Jeff Sagnip Hollendonner, said he could not say the purpose of Saxton's trip. He said the congressman planned to discuss it Wednesday with Hastert.
``He's out of Yugoslavia'' but still in the region, Hollendonner said. ``He wants to answer questions about the trip as soon as he talks to the speaker,'' said Hollendonner.
Saxton is a senior member of the House Armed Services Committee and co-chairman of the Joint Economic Committee. Hollendonner said he could not say whether the visit involved Saxton's role on either committee.
But the aide said Saxton did not go to negotiate for release of three American soldiers held by Belgrade.
John Feehery, Hastert's spokesman, said the speaker's office knew little about the trip but Saxton was representing neither the House nor Hastert and was accompanied by no other House members.
``The speaker met briefly with him on Thursday or Friday,'' Feehery said. ``The speaker strongly cautioned him about the danger involved and did not give him his approval for the trip.''
Hollendonner said Saxton was in Belgrade from Sunday until Tuesday.
Tanjug, the Yugoslav news agency, reported that Saxton spoke to Yugoslav's foreign minister during the visit.
Saxton's office issued this statement on the congressman's behalf:
``I've been traveling here in Belgrade on a fact-finding mission. I plan to meet with Speaker Hastert as soon as I return to discuss the things I have seen and the meetings I have attended. It has been an informative trip, but I am happy to be coming home.''