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Pope makes strongest public appeal yet to Saddam

Pope John Paul II, in one of his strongest appeals yet against war, implored Iraqi President Saddam Hussein yesterday to avoid giving the West reason to attack.

He also warned the UN Security Council that military intervention could trigger an explosion of extremism.

The Holy Father made his plea a few hours before a summit in the Azores bringing together, in a show of unity on Iraq, US President George W. Bush and his British and Spanish allies.

His remarks, delivered from his window overlooking St Peter's Square, reflected the urgency of the next few days, as the White House presses for a decision on Iraq, which is under UN orders to rid itself of "weapons of mass destruction".

"The next days will be decisive for the outcome of the Iraq crisis," said the Pope, who prayed that "leaders on all sides be inspired with courage and long-range vision."

"Certainly, the leaders of Baghdad have the urgent duty to collaborate fully with the international community, to eliminate any reason for an armed intervention," the Pope said.

"To them I direct my pressing appeal: the fate of your fellow citizens always has priority!"

John Paul also said he wanted to remind UN member countries, and especially those which make up the Security Council, that "the use of force represents the last resort, after having exhausted every other peaceful solution, according to the well-known principles of the UN Charter."

"That is why, in the face of the tremendous consequences that an international military operation would have for the population of Iraq and for the equilibrium of the entire Middle East reason, already so tried, as well as for the extremism which could stem from it, I say to all: There is still time to negotiate; there is still room for peace."

The pontiff continued: "It is never too late to understand one another and to continue to deal with each other."


Pope Aims Appeal for Iraq Peace Directly at Saddam (Reuters)
Archbishop of [US] military asks Catholics to pray for no war (Catholic New World)
Pope meets peace envoy [Cardinal Laghi] back from Washington trip (Reuters)
Pope warns of war's consequences (ITV)
Iraq's Rising Forces of Faith Create Fears for Future (Washington Post)
[Ohio] Bishop calls participation in war with Iraq 'matter of mortal sin' (Catholic News Service)
Vatican Official [Archbishop Renato Martino] Repeats: No War without UN Approval (Catholic World News)
Vatican Diplomats Will Not Leave Iraq if War Begins (Catholic World News)
Papal Nuncio Will Stay in Baghdad Even If War Breaks Out (Zenit)
Baghdad bishop reveals anguish of Iraqi Catholics (The Universe)
Hong Kong: Leaders Of Six Religions Appeal To United Nations To Maintain Peace (UCAN News)
[Philippine] Catholic bishops: Let's pray for US (Inquirer)
Irish Catholic Bishops' Statement on Iraq (Zenit)
Peace torch lights town [of New Norcia] (The West Australian) 
Iraq: Rosary and Badge Expresses Solidarity with Iraqi People [Dominican Friars Campaign] (Vidimus Dominum)
Our Lady says give peace a chance (Love's Embrace)
How smart is the president? [Andrew Greeley, Daily South Town]
UN Inaction - The Main Problem (National Alliance of Christian Leaders, Australia)

17 Mar 2003