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Vatican denies involvement in Saddam exile bid

The Holy See has denied reports that Pope John Paul II in involved in an effort to persuade Iraq's Saddam Hussein to go into exile.

Joaquin Navarro-Valls, the head of the Vatican press office, said that the reports - which appeared first in the Glasgow Sunday Herald - were "completely baseless".

The Scottish Sunday Herald newspaper had reported that Pope John Paul was backing an effort by Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries to offer an amnesty to Saddam Hussein and his closest associates, provided that they left Iraq within 72 hours.

"I categorically deny this," Navarro-Valls said. The papal spokesman offered no further details about any diplomatic initiatives that the Vatican might have undertaken.

Reports that Pope John Paul is involved in some effort to ward off military action against Iraq have been fueled by a series of meetings between the Pope and various international leaders. No such meetings have been scheduled this week, while the Pope and the leaders of the Roman Curia participate in their annual Lenten Retreat.

Catholic World News

Pope brokering deal for Saddam exile (12/3/03)
UN plan to give Saddam 72 hours to leave Baghdad (Sunday Herald)
Pope as Broker in Plan Offering Exile for Saddam (Catholic World News)
Pope says way to peace begins with purification, battle against evil (Catholic News Service)
Dominicans Plan to Open Novitiate in Iraq (Zenit)
Anti-war clerics find access to Bush barred (International Herald Tribune)
Vatican Peace Initiative (PBS)

12 Mar 2003