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Vote on Armenian 'genocide' resolution put off

  • Story Highlights
  • House speaker said Thursday she accepts sponsors' request to set vote aside
  • Measure would label Ottoman-era killings of Armenians "genocide"
  • Administration said resolution would hurt relations with Turkey, a key ally
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From Deirdre Walsh
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Supporters of a congressional resolution that would have declared the Ottoman-era killings of Armenians "genocide" dropped their call for a vote on the measure Thursday.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the resolution's consequences on the war in Iraq would be "quite dire."

The resolution spurred fierce criticism from NATO ally Turkey, where officials acknowledge the killings of Armenians during World War I but vehemently object to the designation "genocide."

Turkish leaders threatened to curtail U.S. access to bases vital to supporting the more than 160,000 American troops in Iraq if the measure passed.

The Bush administration, which is trying to persuade Turkey not to launch cross-border raids against Kurdish rebels in Iraq, had lobbied aggressively against the resolution as well.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told a House committee Thursday that the resolution's consequences on the war in Iraq would be "quite dire."

The House Foreign Affairs Committee approved the resolution earlier this month. But Rep. Rahm Emanuel, the No. 3 Democrat in the House of Representatives, conceded last week that "the votes are not there" for the resolution to clear the full House.

In a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, its major sponsors wrote that the measure would pass "if the timing is more favorable." Pelosi, D-California, had promised to schedule a floor vote if the resolution made it out of committee, but told reporters Thursday that she accepted the sponsors' request to set the matter aside.

Though the sponsors, led by California Democrat Adam Schiff, suggested the measure could be brought back later this year, a senior Democratic leadership aide said the issue is off the table indefinitely.

"This is not going to be taken up until next year at the earliest," the aide said.

Historians estimate about 1.5 million Armenians were killed by the Ottoman Empire -- the predecessor of modern Turkey -- during World War I. But Turkey, now a secular and democratic Muslim nation, and masses of its people reject the term genocide, viewing the deaths as part of a war that claimed lives among all peoples in the region.

House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, said the handling of the issue raises questions about the judgment of Democratic leaders -- "a pattern that is undermining our national security."

"Given Turkey's importance in the war on terror, the role it plays in the care of our troops on the ground, and their close alliance with us in NATO, attempting to force a vote on this resolution in the first place was just plain reckless," Boehner said in a written statement after the news emerged. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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