Washington, DC – Upon hearing that the Palestinian Liberation Organization's representative in Washington, Afif Safieh, has issued a statement calling the late terrorist George Habash "a great leader" and invited the public to his offices to sign a condolence book after Habash's death on the weekend, Chairman Tom Lantos of the House Foreign Affairs Committee issued the following statement today:

"I am astonished that the PLO's representative to this country would make such an asinine comment and would actually have the temerity to call on Americans to come to his office and sign a 'register of condolences' for this vicious individual. How disgusting.

"Rather than a 'great leader,' Habash is more properly known -- as TIME magazine recently pointed out -- as 'the godfather of Middle East terrorism.'

"The PLO representative's crude, insensitive action in paying homage to an anti-American terrorist is particularly shocking and embarrassing to those of us who truly want to see peace between Israelis and Palestinians, based on a two-state solution.”

Habash's radical group the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine staged several hijackings in the late 1960s and early 1970s, including of U.S. passenger aircraft, setting off a terrorist trend that still plagues the Middle East and the world.

Habash refused to apologize for his actions, and he never endorsed any peace plan that foresaw recognition of Israel.

Lantos called for an immediate retraction and apology from the PLO’s representative.