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Pope prays daily for end to Iraq embargo

Pope John Paul greeted Iraq's new ambassador to the Holy See on Saturday and told him he prayed for his country every day and longed for the lifting of an international embargo.

"I wish you to know my esteem for the Iraqi people, whom I remember daily in my prayers, especially in the light of the continuing difficulties they face," the Holy Father told the ambassador.

"As the embargo in your country continues to claim victims, I renew my appeal to the international community that innocent people should not be made to pay the consequences of a destructive effects are still being felt by those who are weakest and most vulnerable," he said.

But he also told the envoy, Abdul-Amir Al-Anbari, a former ambassador to the United Nations, Britain and the United States, that countries should respect their religious minorities.

"In Iraq, as in the world at large, dialogue between Christians and Muslims is more necessary than ever.

"It is the obligation of every government to ensure the equality of all citizens before the law is never violated for religious reasons, whether openly or covertly," he said.