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Last Updated: Monday, 11 February 2008, 16:06 GMT
Congressman Tom Lantos dies in US
Tom Lantos in a file photo from June 2007
Tom Lantos was known for his vocal support of human rights
Veteran Democratic Congressman Tom Lantos, the only Holocaust survivor to serve in the US Congress, has died.

Mr Lantos, 80, a member of the House of Representatives for California, passed away on Monday morning. He had been suffering cancer of the oesophagus.

He chaired the influential House Foreign Affairs Committee and called for greater US action on human rights in China, Darfur, Burma and Russia.

Mr Lantos was 16 when the Nazis invaded his native Hungary in 1944.

His mother and many of his relatives perished in the Holocaust.

Mr Lantos announced last month that he had been diagnosed with cancer and that he would not be seeking re-election in his northern California district.

At the time he said: "It is only in the United States that a penniless survivor of the Holocaust and a fighter in the anti-Nazi underground could have received an education, raised a family, and had the privilege of serving the last three decades of his life as a member of Congress."

'American by choice'

Mr Lantos, who was first elected in 1980, used his chairmanship of the House Foreign Affairs Committee to focus on human rights issues.

In October last year, his committee passed a measure to describe the 1915-17 mass killings of Armenians by Ottoman Turks as genocide, a move that provoked Turkey's fury.

In November he attacked Yahoo executives over their company's actions that led to the jailing of a dissident Chinese journalist.

"While technologically and financially you are giants, morally, you are pygmies," Mr Lantos said.

Mr Lantos, who called himself "an American by choice", survived the Nazi occupation of Hungary, escaping twice from a forced labour camp.

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