Iraqi envoys to attend Assyrian forum

3/27/2007 1:50:00 AM

State Department officials and the Iraqi ambassadors to the United States and the United Nations are among those scheduled to speak in Ceres on Saturday in front of one of the world's largest Assyrian organizations.

The Assyrian National Congress will hold a two-day conference with about 150 delegates representing 12 countries.

The organization's president, Sargon Dadesho, said he hopes the forum will help facilitate discussions on securing a national identity for the minority group of Assyrians in the national and regional constitutions of Iraq.

But aside from the lofty goals, Dadesho said getting delegates to the conference was "a miracle in itself." He said delegates from Iraq and Syria had difficulties getting visas to attend.

"By getting together, it will be a miracle for us," Dadesho said.

He said he has received calls about the conference from as far away as Chicago and New York.

"People are calling from all over to say they want to be at this gathering," Dadesho said.

Tickets to a Saturday banquet have long been sold out, but Dadesho said the public can meet delegates at a rally Sunday night at Ceres' Assyrian Cultural Center.

Some estimates put the number of Assyrians living in the San Joaquin Valley at more than 15,000, making it one of the largest Assyrian populations in the United States.

The Assyrian empire, which fell in 612 B.C., covered parts of Iraq, Iran, Turkey, Syria and Lebanon. Assyrians remain a minority in the predominately Islamic Middle East.