HASTERT REJECTING CALLS TO CONSIDER RECOGNITION OF ARMENIAN GENOCIDE.
WASHINGTON - Despite mounting pressure from Southern California lawmakers, House Speaker Dennis Hastert will continue to oppose a Pasadena congressman's amendment recognizing the Armenian genocide, his spokesman said Tuesday.
``That amendment, in the Speaker's view, was poorly crafted and wouldn't help us with one of our most valuable allies in the war against terror,'' John Feehery said. ``He doesn't think that this is a fight we should be picking right now.''
Feehery's comments came on the heels of a petition from Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Pasadena, asking Hastert to reconsider his position that the United States should not formally declare the massacre of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire after World War I a genocide, saying it would alienate Turkey, a NATO ally.
The letter, signed by more than 60 lawmakers sympathetic to Armenian issues, reminded Hastert that four years ago, in order to help James Rogan - a then-struggling Glendale Republican incumbent - the Speaker vowed to allow a vote on the Armenian genocide.
Lawmakers also downplayed the effect such a resolution would have on the U.S. relationship with Turkey, noting that the European Parliament, the Council of Europe and several European nations have recognized the genocide without suffering long-term breaches with Ankara.
``Our relationship with Turkey is important, but that relationship must not compel us to acquiesce in the unwillingness of Turkey to confront the actions of its Ottoman forebears,'' lawmakers wrote.
Schiff, whose district is home to a large concentration of Armenians, attached an amendment to a foreign-operations funding bill earlier this year that would forbid Turkey from using U.S. funds to lobby against the genocide resolution.
The amendment is largely symbolic because the law already prohibits foreign governments from using U.S. aid to lobby. But it has the practical effect of formally designating, for the first time, the killing of 1.5 million Armenians between 1915 and 1923 as a genocide.
Hastert and the GOP leadership reacted swiftly to the amendment and insisted it be stripped from the bill. He also vowed that the central question of whether to declare the killings genocide would never be scheduled for a vote under his watch.
Last week, the Senate passed a version of the legislation that made no mention of the Schiff amendment. Now House and Senate negotiators are working to merge the two versions, a process that will determine whether the genocide language will live or die.
Schiff did not accept an early defeat regarding the fate of his amendment, but noted: ``We're in this fight for the long haul. If we don't succeed in the remaining few weeks of this session, we want to recognize the genocide while there are still some victims left.''
Armenians estimate that more than 1.5 million died in a planned genocide campaign. Turkey has consistently denied the assertions, putting the number at 300,000 and contending that thousands of Turks also died in what was a multiparty conflict during the last years of the Ottoman Empire.
Lisa Friedman, (202) 662-8731
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|Publication:||Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)|
|Date:||Sep 29, 2004|
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