A staff assistant to Rep. Jim Mattox (D-Tex.) says she was fired for visiting Lebanon this summer under the auspicies of the Palestine Congress of North America, an American group that supports the PLO.

The trip by Karen Iyazi was mentioned in a brief item in New York magazine last month, which she says led to her firing by Mattox's administrative assistant, Don Buford, who was sensitive to Jewish sentiment in his boss' congressional district.

Buford at first denied the firing of Iyazi was prompted by her visit to Lebanon, but then said, "Obviously, that was a precipitating factor." Asked to explain further, Buford said he wanted to retract both statements and would have no comment. Buford said, "No Jewish organization or Zionist lobby pressured her out of her job."

Mattox's press aide, John Jackley, said the congressman will not deny the allegation, but added, "He thinks it's a staff matter and just wants to keep it at that."

Iyazi said she took an unpaid leave of absence for the trip because of an "atmosphere of fear" on Capitol Hill regarding any contact with Arab interests. On her first day back from work, August 31, Iyazi says Buford asked for her resignation. She says she talked privately with the congressman, who, along with Buford, wrote her a letter of recommendation to help in her search for a new job.