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Turkey's Ambassador Not Returning to US Yet

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses lawmakers from his ruling party at the parliament in Ankara, Turkey, Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Turkey says its U.S. ambassador will not return to Washington until Congress clarifies its stand on a "genocide" resolution discussing mass killings of Armenians by Ottoman Turks more than 90 years ago.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who is visiting Saudi Arabia Tuesday, has said the issue could greatly harm Turkey's relations with the United States.

The dispute began after a House of Representatives committee passed a resolution declaring the death of hundreds of thousands of Armenians was an act of genocide by Ottoman Turkish forces.

Before his election, President Barack Obama said he believed the World War I - era massacre was genocide. Now, however, administration officials say the president opposes the resolution. The full House has not yet voted on the non-binding measure.

The Foreign Affairs committee vote last Thursday triggered outrage in Turkey and prompted the recall of Ambassador Namik Tan.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said the Obama administration will work very hard to make sure the resolution does not come up for a vote before the full House of Representatives.

However, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu contends the Obama administration is not doing enough to block further action on the genocide issue, considering that Turkey is a key ally of the United States. Turkish authorities also say the U.S. resolution will complicate their efforts to normalize relations with Armenia.

Armenia has praised the resolution, with Foreign Minister Eduard Nalbandian calling it an important step to help prevent future crimes against humanity.

Armenians say about 1.5 million people of Armenian descent were massacred between 1915 and 1923, in what they contend was a campaign orchestrated by the Ottoman Turkish empire. Turkey, which now has a secular Muslim democratic government, says that Armenian death toll is inflated, and that those killed were victims of civil war and unrest in which Turks also died.