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Veteran Democratic congressman retiring after cancer diagnosis

  • Story Highlights
  • Rep. Tom Lantos, D-California, diagnosed with esophageal cancer
  • California Democrat is chairman of House Foreign Affairs Committee
  • Lantos, 79, survived Nazi labor camps and the Holocaust
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Rep. Tom Lantos, the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, has been diagnosed with cancer and will not seek a new term this year, his office announced Wednesday.

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Rep. Tom Lantos has served in the House for 14 terms.

Lantos, a California Democrat, is serving his 14th term in the House of Representatives. In a statement released by his office, the 79-year-old lawmaker said routine medical tests showed he has esophageal cancer.

"In view of this development and the treatment it will require, I will not seek re-election," he said.

The Hungarian-born Lantos came to the United States in 1947 after surviving a forced-labor camp in his Nazi-allied homeland. He escaped and was sheltered in a Budapest safe house set up by Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg, who was credited with saving tens of thousands of Hungarian Jews during World War II.

"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," Lantos said. "I will never be able to express fully my profoundly felt gratitude to this great country."

As a lawmaker, Lantos has been an outspoken human rights advocate. He supported the 2002 congressional resolution that authorized President Bush to launch the invasion of Iraq, but has become an outspoken critic of the nearly five-year-old conflict.

He is the latest of more than a dozen members to announce plans to leave the House at the end of the year, most of them Republicans. His San Francisco-area district is solidly Democratic, and he won re-election with more than three-quarters of the vote in 2006. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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