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Bush Administration Urges Turkish Restraint on Kurdish Rebels


Bush administration officials are urging Turkey not to take military action against Kurdish rebels in neighboring Iraq. Meanwhile, the White House is trying to stop a congressional vote on a controversial resolution that has angered the Turkish government. VOA's Paula Wolfson has details from the White House.

There are concerns in Washington that Turkish cross-border attacks on Kurdish rebels could lead to a broader war in Iraq.

U.S. envoys have been dispatched to Ankara, the Turkish capital, to appeal for restraint. But their task is complicated by a backlash in Turkey to a non-binding resolution now making its way through the U.S. House of Representatives.

That resolution deals with a bloody event in 1915 - the mass killings of Armenians during the final days of the Ottoman Empire. The resolution says these deaths amounted to genocide.

The Turkish government argues there was no genocide, that the Armenians died in a war in which Turks were also killed. The issue is so sensitive in Ankara, that the Turkish ambassador to the United States was recalled after the measure cleared the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Wednesday.

President Bush urged House leaders against further action.

"This resolution is not the right response to these historic mass killings," said President Bush.

And Secretary of Defense Robert Gates warned lawmakers that Turkey could retaliate by limiting access to vital routes used to supply U.S. forces in Iraq.

"Access to the road and airfields and so on in Turkey would be very much put at risk," said Gates.

But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is standing firm. During an appearance on the ABC television news program This Week she predicted a final vote on the measure before the House of Representatives adjourns for the year. She said Congress has an obligation to speak out against genocide, whenever and wherever it occurs.

"It is a House resolution. It is non-binding. It is a statement made by 23 other countries, we would be the 24th country to make this statement. Genocide still exists. And we saw it in Rwanda, we see it now in Darfur," she said.

Pelosi dismissed the argument that now is not the time to bring up the Armenian mass killings. She said the survivors are very old, and America must take a moral stand. She was then asked if she would go ahead with the vote even if the defense department believes it would put U.S. forces at risk.

"I tell you this. Some of the things that are harmful to our troops relate to values, Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, torture, all of those issues about who we are as a country. And I think that our troops are well served when we declare who we are as a country and increase the respect that people have for us as a nation," she said.

Appearing on the Fox News Sunday program, the top Republican in the House urged the speaker to pull the bill. Congressman John Boehner said there is no question the suffering of the Armenians was extreme. But he stressed what happened some 90 years ago should be a matter for historians to sort out, not politicians in Washington.

"And I think bringing this bill to the floor may be the most irresponsible thing I have seen this new congress do this year," said Boehner.

Boehner said the measure has angered a strategic ally in the war on terror, adding he is not even sure the speaker has the votes to pass the bill.

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