|Vatican||POPE LIKELY TO MEET SADDAM HUSSEIN LATER THIS YEAR|
Vatican sources have announced that the Pope is to travel to Iraq "in the footsteps of Abraham", and most likely include in his program a meeting with Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.
The trip, the details of which are still to be confirmed, would be mainly to the ancient city of Ur, which the Bible identifies as the birthplace of Abraham, in southern Mesopotamia, and to other sites where many of the roots of Christianity lie
Raphael I Bidawid, the Catholic Patriarch of Iraq, has requested the United Nations to suspend its prohibition of direct flights to the country in order to facilitate the visit. The US and British armed forces would also need to cease what are believed to be almost daily attacks on military targets in Iraq.
The meeting with Saddam Hussein is certain to anger the British and US governments. But the Holy See is hoping to repeat the diplomatic successes of his visits to Cuba and Nigeria last year.
Current sanctions against Iraq include the prohibition of direct flights. The Pope and the Holy See have protested repeatedly against the inhuman effects of sanctions, especially against the people of Iraq and the children. 5% of Iraq's 22 million population is Christian.
Zenit 2:00pm 27/5/99