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Pelosi will talk kidnapped soldiers with Syrian president

Story Highlights

• Pelosi will meet with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad next week
• Militant group Hezbollah abducted soldiers, sparking war in Lebanon last year
• The Hamas militant group has leadership in Syria
• Pelosi highest-ranking American to meet Syrian president since Bill Clinton
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JERUSALEM (CNN) -- U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Sunday she will bring up the plight of Israeli soldiers kidnapped by the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah during her delegation's visit to Syria next week.

Hezbollah has strong support from Syria. The Islamist militant group's abduction of two Israeli soldiers from inside Israel last summer sparked a war between Hezbollah and Israel.

Speaking to a dinner of the Knesset in Jerusalem, Pelosi displayed I.D. tags of three Israeli soldiers -- Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, held by Hezbollah, and Gilad Shalit, who was abducted by Hamas militants last year in a cross-border raid into Israel from Gaza.

The Hamas militant group has leadership in Syria and support from the Syrian government.

Pelosi said the Israeli I.D. tags were given to her by Goldwasser's wife Karnit during a visit to Washington. She said she displays them prominently in her office, and tells visitors about "the priority that my colleagues and I" place in securing their safe return.

"I carry them with me today, with the promise that we must never rest until they are all safely at home. And yes, I will mention this to the president of Syria," she said.

Pelosi's visit to Syria comes in the context of a political battle at home. The White House refuses direct talks with Damascus, saying Syrian leaders have failed promises too many times in the past.

But the bipartisan Iraq Study Group called for talks with Syria to help bring stability to Iraq.

Other U.S. lawmakers have traveled to Syria.

When Pelosi meets with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, she will be the highest-ranking American to meet with that country's leadership since then-President Bill Clinton met with the late Syrian President Hafez al-Assad in 1994.

Pelosi and her delegation, which includes one Republican -- David Hobson of Ohio -- will also meet with Lebanese leaders in Beirut.

"It has been almost nine months since Hezbollah's unprovoked attack on Israel, yet Hezbollah continues to violate the U.N. resolution that set conditions to end the end of the violence," she said, adding that the 10,000 U.N. troops sent to the region "must be successful in preventing the shipment of weapons and supplies allowing Hezbollah to rearm ... Hezbollah must be disarmed.

"And together we must have a simple message for Tehran, whose support of Hezbollah is well known: Iran must not be allowed to have a nuclear weapon. The time to leverage all our power is now, and the way to do it is through diplomacy, with stronger sanctions and smarter policy choices."

She added that Iran "is a problem for the world."

"One of the greatest achievements of the 20th century"

Pelosi, after being introduced by the Knesset's first woman speaker, addressed "this great democratic body" and said the creation of Israel "stands out as one of the greatest achievements of the 20th century"

"We speak with one voice in support of a secure state of Israel living in peace with their neighbors," she added.

Palestinian leaders recently announced a new "unity government" aimed at ending months of bloodshed between the two major factions, Hamas and Fatah. Pelosi said she is concerned that some in the government remain "committed to the destruction of Israel."

But she said she believes most Palestinians, Israelis, and Americans share the goal of Palestinians living alongside Israel in peace and security.

"Talking with responsible Palestinian partners is a wise investment in Israel's future," she said.

Pelosi's delegation includes Reps. Henry Waxman and Tom Lantos of California, Louise Slaughter of New York, Nick Rahall of West Virginia, and Keith Ellison of Minnesota, the first Muslim to serve in Congress.

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