Thursday, July 31, 2008

Briefly: Lantos retires, Gül to visit U.S., Russia supplies Iran with nuclear fuel and Putin “Person of the Year.”

This was originally published in January 5, 2008 Armenian Reporter.

by Emil Sanamyan

Congressman Lantos announces retirement
Foreign Affairs Committee chair Rep. Tom Lantos (D.-Calif.) said on January 2 that he will retire from Congress at the end of 2008. “Routine medical tests have revealed that I have cancer of the esophagus,” Rep. Lantos said in a statement. “In view of this development and the treatment it will require, I will not seek re-election.”

Rep. Lantos, together with Speaker Nancy Pelosi, played a key role in assuring the passage of the Armenian Genocide resolution in the Foreign Affairs Committee last October. Rep. Lantos described that vote to PBS as “a significant step in restoring the moral authority of U.S. foreign policy.”

Until 2005, Mr. Lantos – the only Holocaust survivor in Congress – opposed similar resolutions, citing Turkey’s importance to the U.S. and Israel. Rep. Lantos, who will turn 80 next month, has represented a San Francisco-area congressional district since 1980 and for over a decade has been one of the most influential congressional voices on foreign affairs.

Should Democrats retain their congressional majority next year, Rep. Lantos is likely to be replaced as committee chair by Rep. Howard Berman (D.-Calif.), a member of the Armenian Caucus and a supporter of Armenian-American issues.

On January 3, Rep. Lantos’ hometown newspaper, the San Mateo Daily News, reported that former California State Senator Jackie Speier (D.-San Mateo), who is of Armenian descent, had been planning a run for Rep. Lantos’ seat even before his retirement announcement. At this time, Rep. Anna Eshoo (D.-Calif.) is the only member of Congress of Armenian descent.

Turkish president to visit United States
President Abdullah Gül of Turkey has been invited to visit the United States next week. He will meet President George W. Bush at the White House on January 8 and will then travel to New York for a meeting with the United Nations’ Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon.

Turkish media report that talks in Washington will focus on Turkey’s concerns over Kurds and in New York – over Cyprus. Gül’s will be the first visit by Turkish president to the United States since 1996.

“Obviously President Gül’s visit to the White House will reconfirm the importance attached to our bilateral ties,” the Turkish Daily News cited an anonymous Turkish diplomat as saying on January 2. “We are satisfied with the new intelligence sharing system and looking forward to deepening our cooperation,” he said in reference to assistance the U.S. has begun to provide Turkey since an early November meeting between President Bush and visiting Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The visit also comes shortly after Iraqi Kurdish leaders said they would postpone by six months a referendum on the status of the oil-rich city of Kirkuk in northern Iraq. Turkey has long objected to making that majority Kurdish-populated (and de facto controlled) city part of Iraqi Kurdistan.

Russia resumes nuclear fuel shipments to Iran
With international pressure at least temporarily off Iran over its nuclear program, following the publication of the most recent U.S. intelligence assessment (see this page in the Dec. 8, 2007 Armenian Reporter), Russia at the end of December resumed supplying nuclear fuel to an Iranian nuclear power plant in Bushehr.

Senior officials in Tehran also suggested that Russia would supply the Iranian armed forces advanced air defense systems, news agencies reported. But Russian officials would not confirm that the deal to supply the S-300 surface-to-air missile systems was currently on the agenda.

Last fall, Russia suspended the fuel supplies, as the U.S. prodded the international community to take a tougher stand against the Tehran government, which it accuses of seeking to develop nuclear weapons. But the U.S.’s own intelligence estimate released a month ago determined that Iran stopped its nuclear weapons program in 2003.

Time names Putin “Person of the Year”
In its annual selection, Time picked Russian President Vladimir Putin as its “Person of the Year 2007.” The magazine said that the Russian president was chosen because he performed an extraordinary feat of leadership in imposing stability on a nation that has rarely known it and brought Russia back to the table of world power.”

Mr. Putin, who was chosen over former U.S. vice president and Nobel laureate Al Gore, became the fourth Russian leader to be selected since Time began the selections in 1927. The others chosen included Joseph Stalin (1939 and 1942), Nikita Khrushchev (1957), and Mikhail Gorbachev (1989).

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