855) Under Armenian influence, Los Angeles Times calls for Senate's rejection of ambassador-appointee

A controversy over the firing of the U.S. ambassador to Yerevan, who has classified the Armenian killings of World War I as genocide, may lead to a blockade of the new envoy's appointment in the Senate, analysts said.

U.S. President George W. Bush dismissed John Evans as ambassador to Armenia in May after the latter, in violation of an official American policy on the Armenian killings, accused Ottoman Turks of conducting genocide. . .

But since then powerful Armenian American groups have been protesting against Evans' firing, urging the Senate to delay the confirmation of Richard Hoagland, who has been nominated by Bush to replace the outgoing ambassador.

In the latest development, under apparent influence of the Armenian groups, the Los Angeles Times called on the Senate to block Hoagland's confirmation.

"They [members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee] should block the nomination altogether until the ambassador-to-be dares to utter the g-word," the newspaper said in an editorial on Sunday. During his confirmation hearing at the committee, Hoagland declined to use the word "genocide" despite pressure by pro-Armenian senators.

Hoagland tried to eschew insistent questions over how he would qualify the Armenian killings during his planned tenure in Yerevan. Recalling that in his latest April 24 statement Bush referred to the Armenian killings as "a tragedy the world must not forget," Hoagland said, "I represent the president."

"Instead of getting stuck in the past, and vocabulary, I would like to move forward," he said.

Under the U.S. constitution, all senior U.S. government officials, including ambassadors, need to be confirmed by the Senate.

But nearly half of the committee's 18 members back the Armenian cause against Turkey, and have sent written questions to the State Department, seeking an official statement on why Evans has been dismissed.

"Hoagland's appointment could hang in the balance," said the Los Angeles Times, and some analysts said he may fail to win the Senate Foreign Relations Committee's final approval.

The fact that this is an election year for Congress has been boosting the influence of ethnic and other lobbies in congressional decisions, the analysts said. One third of the Senate and the whole of the House of Representatives will be renewed in the November elections.

Presently Bush's Republican Party is in control of both houses, but the polls could provide the opposition Democrats with a majority in at least one of the chambers. So even one single seat carries an enormous importance for both parties.

"The Bush administration should have the courage and explain forthrightly -- not just to Armenian Americans but to all Americans who believe in calling evil by its proper name -- why U.S. policy is being dictated by Ankara nationalists," the Los Angeles Times editorial said.

Los Angeles is in California, the United States' largest state and home to up to one million Armenian Americans.

Addressing an Armenian audience in the United States in February 2005, Evans said that the World War I killing of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire amounted to genocide. Warned by his superiors at the State Department, he then issued a "clarification" where he said his remarks reflected his own views. Still pressed by the State Department, Evans later issued a further "correction," admitting that his statement misrepresented the U.S. policy. But Bush fired Evans in May after the latter continued to deviate from the official U.S. policy, according to administration sources.

"Ambassadors serve the president and they are obliged to follow his policy. President Bush's policy as it regards the mass killings of Armenians is precise and he mentions it in his annual statement," said recently Matt Bryza, U.S. deputy assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006
WASHINGTON - Turkish Daily News



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