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By Aram Vanetsian in Los Angeles
The U.S. Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee voted on Thursday to endorse President George W. Bush’s choice of the new U.S. ambassador to Armenia, despite strong objections voiced by some of its members.

The 13-to-5 vote, which was twice delayed by the panel this summer, paves the way for the outgoing U.S. Ambassador to Tajikistan Richard Hoagland’s endorsement by the full Senate. Hoagland will take over from fellow career diplomat John Evans.

Evans is widely believed to have been recalled by the Bush administration over his public description of the 1915 mass killings of Armenians in Ottoman Turkey as genocide. His sacking sparked an uproar from the influential Armenian-American community which lobbied dozens of senators and members of the U.S. House of Representatives to raise their concerns with the administration.

Hoagland’s refusal to term the Armenian massacres a genocide during confirmation hearings at the Senate committee in June only added to the community leaders’ anger. In a September 5 written response to Senator Joseph Biden, a ranking Democrat who helped to again delay the confirmation vote last month, a senior State Department official argued that Hoagland simply articulated Washington’s policy on the highly sensitive issue. While admitting that some 1.5 million Ottoman Armenians were massacred between 1915 and 1918, Bush has avoided the use of the word “genocide” in his annual messages to the Armenian Diaspora in the United States.

“The President’s approach appears to be yielding a new readiness in Turkey to reexamine this horrific chapter of Turkey’s past with greater moral clarity, building on previous efforts, such as the Turkish-Armenian Reconciliation Commission,” Assistant Secretary of State Jeffrey Bergner wrote to Biden. “Honest introspection and recognition of a painful history can do true justice to the victims of these cruelties.”

(AP-Photolur photo: Richard Hoagland.)
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