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Monk wants quick handover of power to Iraqis

A leading Chaldaean religious figure has expressed gratitude to the US-led forces for Iraq's 'liberation' from Saddam Hussein, but appealed to the United States to fast-track the turning over of power to Iraqis.

42 year old Fr Denka Toma is superior general of the Antonian Order of St Ormizda of the Chaldeans, a religious order in the country founded in the seventh century.

He described Iraq as a nation left at the mercy of terrorist groups, with its people dying of hunger. His comments came after last week's car bomb attack in Nasiriyah which killed 33 and injured scores of others including 12 Caritas workers.

"Today I cannot be optimistic," he told the Fides agency, stressing that everything depends on the United States. "We have yet to enter a new political season. We must find the way out of this tragic situation in which terrorism and insecurity move freely."

"Six months after the war ended, the people lament lack of social, civil and economic reconstruction," he said. "They are beginning to think that the real aim of the Americans was to take control of Iraq's oil."

In recent days, US President George Bush has announced a revised, expedited timetable for the handover of power to Iraqis. But some observers believe the motivation is domestic political factors including the US Presidential election due at the end of next year.

Fr Toma said that the Chaldean Catholic Church is offering hope amid Iraq's crisis.

"The monks visit families, they pray with the young people, they teach children, giving great testimony of faith. Every Chaldean Christian family prays every day that God will grant our country a future of peace."

Monk Pleads for Return of Power to Iraqis (Zenit 16/11/03)

From bad to worse in Iraq (The Tablet 15/11/03)

18 Nov 2003