FT: Pelosi backtracks over Armenians resolution

Financial Times (London, England)
October 18, 2007 Thursday
London Edition 1

Pelosi backtracks over Armenians resolution


Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the US House of Representatives,
yesterday backtracked on her support for a US Congressional
resolution that has infuriated Turkey’s government, amid increasing
doubts over whether the measure would ever be approved.

As recently as the weekend, Ms Pelosi said that she planned to take
the bill, which denounces mass killings of Armenians during the
Ottoman Empire as genocide, to the full House this year. Ms Pelosi is
a long standing backer of the measure, in spite of the anger it has
caused in Turkey.

But, yesterday, facing increasing criticism and a series of high
profile defections from the ranks of the bill’s supporters, she toned
down her commitment to take it to a full House vote.

"Whether it will come up or not and what the action will be remains
to be seen," she said.

During this week, declared support for the bill has fallen below the
level needed for House approval, with at least 10 Congressmen
withdrawing their backing in addition to several others who peeled
off earlier this year. As of yesterday, the bill had 215 sponsors or
co-sponsors in the 435 member House.

"If it came to the floor today it wouldn’t pass," Representative John
Murtha, an influential Democratic legislator, said at a press
conference with four other Democrats who also called on Ms Pelosi not
to proceed with the bill.

"This is clearly causing nervousness among House members who are only
now realising the implications," a Republican aide said. "It puts in
doubt whether this resolution will ever be voted on by the House."

The legislation, which was backed by the House’s foreign affairs
committee last week, has sparked concerns that US influence with
Ankara could be weakened at a time when the Turkish government is
contemplating a large scale military incursion into Northern Iraq, to
Washington’s dismay.

The US military is also alarmed that the Turkish government could
reduce logistical support for its troops in Iraq.

"One thing Congress should not be doing is sorting out the historical
record of the Ottoman Empire," President George W. Bush said
yesterday, after having made a phone call to Ms Pelosi on the issue
the day before. "Congress has more important work to do than
antagonising a democratic ally in the Muslim world, especially one
that’s providing vital support for our military every day."