WASHINGTON – A Republican senator is planning to vote against President Bush's nominee for ambassador to Armenia because the nominee has refused to refer to the deaths of 1.5 million Armenians as genocide.
"I continue to be troubled by our policy that refuses to recognize what was a historical reality," Minnesota Sen. Norm Coleman said in a telephone interview Wednesday.
The Bush administration does not question that Turkish troops killed or drove from their homes 1.5 million Armenians starting in 1915. But it has omitted the word "genocide" to describe it.
Turkey strongly objects to the use of the term, and U.S. policymakers are wary of antagonizing an important strategic NATO ally.
On Tuesday, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, on which Coleman serves, postponed a vote on Richard E. Hoagland's nomination until next month.
"As someone of the Jewish faith, I bring a heightened sensitivity to the reality of genocide and mass murder, and the importance of recognizing it for what it is," Coleman said.
"I was brought up believing you never forget the Holocaust, never forget what happened. And I could not imagine how our ambassador to Israel could have any effectiveness if he couldn't recognize the Holocaust."
While other senators have raised concerns about Hoagland's nomination, Coleman is the first to say publicly that he will vote against it, according to the Armenian National Committee of America.