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Armenian Genocide Debate Creates Partisan Split

ANDREA SEABROOK, host:

Back here in Washington, the top leadership in Congress lined up on either side of this issue. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in an interview broadcast on ABC today, responded to the Bush administration's complaints that the Armenian genocide resolution couldn't come at a worst time.

Representative NANCY PELOSI (Democratic, California; Speaker of United States House of Representatives): There's never been a good time, certainly our first force protection of our troops is at first a top priority when we are engaged in conflicts, so that is an issue of great importance to all of us here. As the - when I came to Congress 20 years ago, it wasn't the right time because of the Soviet Union, then that fell and then it wasn't the right time because of the Gulf War I, and then it wasn't the right time because of over flights of Iraq, and now it's not the right time because of Gulf War II.

SEABROOK: At the same time that Pelosi talked of the importance of this resolution, she seemed to try to downplay its potential effect.

Rep. PELOSI: It's a House resolution. It is non-binding. It's the statement made by 23 other countries. We would be the 24th country to make this statement.

Representative JOHN BOEHNER (Republican, Ohio; House Minority Leader): The speaker should not bring this issue to the floor.

Unidentified Man#1: What do you think - what do you think will happen?

Rep. BOEHNER: It should not be brought to the floor. The speaker ought to make sure it isn't brought to the floor.

SEABROOK: That's Republican House Minority Leader John Boehner. He told Fox News today that bringing up this resolution now will have dyer consequences for Americans own interests.

Rep. BOEHNER: Listen, there's no question that the suffering of the Armenian people some 90 years ago was extreme, but what happened 90 years out of the subject for historians to sort out not politicians here in Washington. And I think bringing this bill to the floor, maybe, the most irresponsible thing I've seen in this Congress do this year.

SEABROOK: The Bush administration has warned that angering Turkey could put in jeopardy the strategic routes the U.S. Military uses for sending equipments to U.S. forces fighting in Iraq. Well over half of the American cargo heading to Iraq as well as fuel and water for the troops go through Turkey.

Speaker Pelosi says she will bring the Armenian genocide resolution to the House floor. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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