Push for Armenian genocide bill postponed

TzitzernakaberdWASHINGTON (Reuters) – Backers of a resolution to formally name the 1915 massacre of Armenians by Ottoman Turks a genocide said on Thursday they would postpone efforts to bring it to a vote in the U.S. House of Representatives.

The sponsors conveyed their decision in a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, after support for the controversial resolution support faltered in the face of vehement protests from NATO ally Turkey.

But the four chief co-sponsors who wrote the letter did not totally give up on the proposal, which Armenian-Americans have sought to pass in the House for years but is strongly opposed by the Bush administration.

The sponsors asked Pelosi not to schedule a vote “at this time,” but said they would continue to work for “consideration sometime later this year, or in 2008.”

The resolution passed the House Foreign Affairs Committee on October 10 and seemed destined for speedy consideration by the whole House of Representatives.

Turkey recalled its ambassador in protest and warned of grave damage to U.S.-Turkish relations and a reduction in military cooperation, if the House passed it. Turkey provides key logistical support to U.S. troops in Iraq, with much of the cargo that is flown to the Americans going through a Turkish air base.

Turkey accepts that many Armenians were killed in World War One, but denies they were victims of a systematic genocide.

“We believe that a large majority of our colleagues want to support a resolution recognizing the genocide on the House floor and that they will do so, provided the timing is more favorable,” said the letter to Pelosi, which her office released.

It was signed by four Democrats who were leading sponsors of the resolution — Adam Schiff, Brad Sherman and Anna Eshoo of California, and Frank Pallone of New Jersey.

A Pelosi spokesman said she respected the judgment of the sponsors on the timing of the vote. She has long advocated passage of such a resolution.

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