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US House Speaker: Armenian Genocide Measure Will Go Forward

The speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, says a resolution approved by a House committee this week characterizing the World War I-era killings of tens of thousands of Armenians by Ottoman Turks as genocide will go to a vote in the House. VOA's Dan Robinson reports from Capitol Hill, President Bush wants the resolution stopped, saying it will harm relations with Turkey and U.S. interests in the region.

Speaking a day after the 27 to 21 vote in the foreign affairs committee approving the resolution, Pelosi reaffirmed her determination to see the measure come to a vote in the House.

Some 224 House lawmakers have signed on in support of the resolution, which Pelosi and House majority leader Steny Hoyer say will be brought up at some point before the House is due to end its current session, likely next month.

Pelosi told reporters at her weekly news conference that congressional resolutions on Armenian genocide have been put off, with various justifications, over the past 20 years.

There is never a good time to acknowledge that genocide has taken place, Pelosi adds, whether in the distant past or the present.

"While that may have been a long time ago, genocide is taking place now in Darfur, it did within recent memory in Rwanda, so as long as there is genocide there is need to speak out against it," said Nancy Pelosi.

In the wake of the committee vote, Turkey temporarily recalled its ambassador in Washington for consultations, a traditional method of diplomatic protest.

Speaking in Washington, Egemen Bagis, a member of Turkey's governing Justice and Development Party and advisor to Turkey's Prime Minister, called the House committee vote a mistake and warned of consequences.

However, Congresswoman Pelosi hopes U.S.-Turkish relations will remain strong:

"The U.S. and Turkey have a very strong relationship," she said. "It is based on mutual interest and I with all the respect in the world for the government of Turkey believe that our continued mutual interest will have us grow that relationship. This isn't about the Erdogan government [Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan], this is about the [former] Ottoman Empire."

Pelosi dismissed suggestions of any connection between the House resolution moving forward and Turkish government plans for a possible military incursion into northern Iraq against Kurdish rebels.

Wednesday's House committee vote highlighted the divisions across party lines on the resolution, with eight Democrats voting against and eight Republicans voting for the measure.

At the White House, spokeswoman Dana Perino reiterated President Bush's hope that the resolution will go no farther in the House.

"The president has expressed on behalf of the American people our horror at the tragedy of 1915, but at the same time we have national security concerns, and many of our troops and supplies go through Turkey," said Dana Perino. "They are a very important ally in the war on terror, and we are going to continue to try work with them and we hope that the House does not put forward a full vote."

In its reaction, the State Department expressed regret over the House committee vote, saying it may do grave harm to U.S. - Turkish relations and U.S. interest in Europe and the Middle East.

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