Pelosi hedges on genocide bill

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

Pelosi hedges on genocide bill


Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House of Representatives,
backtracked yesterday 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 had said that she planned to
take the bill, which denounces the mass killing 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 taking 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," John Murtha, an
influential Democratic representative, said at a news 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 logistics 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 the day