Friday, 20 July 2007

Armenians seeking US House vote on genocide bill soon

Having won the backing of a majority of lawmakers in the U.S. House of Representatives for an Armenian genocide resolution, U.S. Armenian groups are nowlaunching a fresh campaign to force House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to bring the measure to a floor vote as soon as possible.

The Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) has called on U.S. Armenians throughout the country to contact their representatives next Monday to urge them "to press for a congressional vote" on the resolution, which calls for the recognition of World War I-era killings of Armenians in
the Ottoman Empire as genocide.

The number of lawmakers backing the Armenian resolution in the 435-member House, Congress' lower chamber, rose to a majority figure of 218 at the end of June, and ANCA said in its Tuesday statement that the figure has now exceeded 220.

"Building on the success of our first national call in helping us top the 218 mark, this second round of nation-wide grassroots activism (next Monday) aims to have this anti-genocide measure brought to the House floor for a vote at the first opportunity," said Aram Hamparian, ANCA's executive director.

Obtaining the support of 218 or more lawmakers does not automatically enable the Armenians to force a House floor vote for the resolution, but means theovercoming of a psychological threshold.

Another group of at least 218 representatives signing a separate and special petition calling for a floor vote is required to push Pelosi to do that, and it will be tough for the Armenians to collect that number of signatures, because most Democratic lawmakers will not want to confront their congressional leader in this way.

Turkey bracing for troubled days: But psychological pressure is building up on Pelosi to bring the bill to a vote.

July 23, the designated day for the new Armenian campaign to contact lawmakers, comes one day after Turkey's national elections Sunday.

It is not clear if Pelosi will opt for a floor vote before Congress' one-month recess in August.

A similar resolution is also pending in the Senate, Congress' upper chamber, with 31 senators out of a total of 100 backing the measure. But the Armenians' efforts focus on moving on the House side first.

The Armenian genocide resolution is not binding, and President George W. Bush's administration opposes its passage.

But Turkey says the measure's approval will greatly harm U.S.-Turkish relations. Foreign Minister Abdullah Gül, a top aide to Prime Minister RecepTayyip Erdogan and three parliamentary teams have visited the U.S. capital in recent months to lobby against the resolution.

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