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The students traveled to Washington, D.C. to meet with Saudi Arabian, Israeli and Egyptian diplomats Friday, just after a parliamentary debate on the Middle East. During their visits to the embassies, they asked questions to representatives of the ambassadors about current Middle East problems. Students said few of the answers they received changed their views, since their hosts at the Israeli and Saudi Arabian embassies aimed to present their countries' "rhetoric" rather than answering their questions directly. After a slide presentation on Saudi Arabia at the Saudi embassy, the consulate's representative Abdulrahman Al-Shaia answered questions on issues ranging from women's rights to the possibility of a Kurdish state. "He was a little sterile; the spokesman was giving the party line," PPU Vice Chairperson Rubin Aronin said yesterday, adding he was disappointed but not suprised by the Saudi spokesperson. At the Israeli Embassy, students said Counsel for Information Oded Ben-Chaim seemed defensive when answering the students' questions. At the beginning of his presentation, they said, he showed them a map of the Middle East showing "little Israel" next to its larger neighbors. Ben-Chaim also defended the growing Jewish settlement in the occupied West Bank, saying the number of settlers rather than the number of settlements is increasing. PPU members said their experiences with the Egyptian diplomats were the most worthwhile. The students went to the ambassador's home, instead of the embassy, and Minister of Political Affairs Mohamed Amr answered their questions more candidly than the other diplomats they saw. "[Meeting with Amr] was the culmination of everything," PPU Chairperson Denise Wolf said. "This man was the best . . . he was very honest and very sincere in answering questions. Everyone was very happy with him." Students said they were suprised by Amr's emphasis on Egypt's African heritage. Students said security concerns at the Saudi and Israeli embassy were a nuisance. In order to come to the Israeli embassy, students had to provide their birthplace and birthdate to embassy officials a week in advance. In addition, before PPU's Conservative Party Chair Cenk Uygur -- who was born in Turkey -- could enter, the officials asked Aronin how long he had known Uygur and if he would cause trouble. At the Saudi embassy, students had to walk through a metal detector before entering the building, while Wolf's camera was nearly confiscated when she tried to take a picture of the outside of the building. But students said the experience of being at the embassies itself was valuable. "When you spent eight hours in a bus and still feel you enjoyed yourself, it must be a good day," PPU Liberal Party Chairperson John Bertland said.

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