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Cardinal Etchegaray briefs Pope, Kofi Anan is next

Cardinal Roger Etchegaray has briefed Pope John Paul II on his mission to Baghdad, and UN secretary general Kofi Anan arrived in Rome for a meeting with the Holy Father, as the Holy See continued its energetic diplomatic efforts to avoid war in the Persian Gulf.

After spending most of a week in Iraq, and meeting with Saddam Hussein, Cardinal Etchegaray held a morning meeting with the Pope, to report on the results of his efforts.

The French-born cardinal, who had travelled to Iraq as a special envoy from the Holy Father, had carried a personal message for Saddam Hussein. Meanwhile last Friday, the Pope had received Iraqi deputy prime minister Tarek Aziz, who reportedly delivered a personal message from Saddam. The contents of those messages have not been disclosed.

In an interview with the Italian daily Avvenire, Cardinal Etchegaray told reporters that it would be a mistake to think of the Vatican position as embracing pacifism. "It would be better to say that the Holy See is always a peacemaker," he said.

Kofi Anan, who was scheduled to meet with the Pope on Tuesday evening (Rome time), is reportedly considering his own personal mission to Baghdad - much like the one undertaken by his predecessor, Javier Perez de Cuellar, in January 1991, and the mission Anan attempted more successfully in 1998.

Catholic World News

Blair to meet the Pope (Ananova)
Cardinal Etchegaray on meeting with Saddam Hussein (Vatican Information Service)
Vatican backs efforts to prevent Iraq war, disarm Saddam (Catholic News Service)
Iraq: Brother Alvaro: Religious Demonstrate to Choose Life, Peace (Vidimus Dominum)
Pope pins hopes on diplomacy (BBC)
US religious leaders want to meet Bush face-to-face to warn about war (Ecumenical News International)
Envoy returning from Baghdad to Rome says peace still possible (18/2/03)
Pope's envoy leads Iraqi Catholics in peace Mass (14/2/03)
Analysis: Vatican Sends Message To Saddam Hussein, Plans To Host Iraqi Foreign Ministers (transcript of interview with National Catholic Reporter's John Allen, US National Public Radio)

19 Feb 2003