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Tariq Aziz's wife appeals to Pope

The wife of Iraq's arrested former foreign minister Tariq Aziz has appealed to Pope John Paul II to help win his release from US custody, saying he was not responsible for the crimes of the Saddam Hussein regime.

Aziz was taken prisoner by US forces on 24 April. Since then very little has been heard from him despite the fact the Americans "made many promises", including a guarantee he could remain in contact with his family, said Violet Aziz.

In an interview with the Italian radio, she said Aziz "never was responsible for the crimes of the regime" of toppled Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

Aziz, a member of Iraq's small Christian minority, was 43rd on the list of the 55 Iraqi officials most wanted by the Americans.

Although one of the best known Iraqi personalities abroad because of the leading role he played in making Iraq's case at the United Nations and other international arenas, Aziz was not considered a member of Saddam's inner circle.

A member of the Chaldeen rite of the Catholic church, Aziz visited the Pope shortly before the outbreak of the Iraq war in February (pictured) and travelled to Assisi to pray for peace at the tomb of St Francis.

Sydney Morning Herald/AFP

Baghdad bishop defends captured Aziz (28/4/03)
Where is Tariq Aziz? 'Let them arrest him,' aunt says (International Herald Tribune)
Pope urges Aziz to push for Iraqi commitment to disarm (17/2/03)

3 Sep 2003