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Lieberman Is Praised by Arab Americans After Their Meeting


SOUTHFIELD, Mich. — Democratic vice presidential nominee Joseph I. Lieberman won guarded praise from Arab American leaders Sunday after he met with them in this Detroit suburb to discuss concerns about his stance on the Middle East and other issues.

Vice President Al Gore's selection of Lieberman, an observant Jew, initially caused consternation among Arab Americans, who feared that the Connecticut senator would not be receptive to their concerns about the U.S. policy in the Middle East and other issues.

But on Sunday, several leaders praised the Democratic candidate for listening to their positions, and said the meeting was a good first step in building a strong relationship with Arab Americans.

"I felt excellent about the meeting," said Jumana Judeh, who was a Michigan delegate to the Democratic National Convention. "I think the meeting was the beginning of a long friendship that's going to take place over the years. Mr. Lieberman was very honest with us. He listened very intently.

"We all have differences, families have differences. But if he continues on the path that he's on, I'm hoping the Arab community will support him."

Arab Americans make up about 4% of the electorate in Michigan, a key battleground state in the presidential election, and a place where Gore and Republican George W. Bush are tied in the latest polls.

On Sunday, participants said the group discussed the immigration laws as well as use of secret evidence in cases against immigrants, along with the Middle East peace process and the debate about moving America's embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Lieberman mostly took notes, they said, and asked for more information about some topics.

"He was as open as he could be," said Abed Habboud, president of the Arab American Political Action Committee. "A meeting like this could have closed the door, but this is definitely a good beginning. We definitely need to have a continuation of a dialogue to get more precise positions by the senator and for him to be more [apprised] of our issues. In order to promote him in the community, I need more."

He would still like Lieberman to speak publicly before the Arab American community, he added.

Others said they felt Lieberman set the right tone by immediately addressing leaders in the Arab American community.

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