|Iraq||MUSLIM LEADERS CRITICICAL OF PAPAL PILGRIMAGE|
A report in Iraq's official news agency on Tuesday criticised Pope John Paul II's planned visit to the country in December, quoting seven Islamic scholars who accused the Holy Father of using the trip to mitigate the West's "crimes against Arabs."
The Iraqi News Agency's report was the first open criticism from an official source since the Holy Father said he desired to visit Ur, the birthplace of the biblical patriarch Abraham in northern Iraq. The letter claimed the Holy Father's visit was intended to persuade Christians to forgive Jews for what it described as their "atrocities," including the killing of Jesus. Muslims recognize Jesus as a prophet.
The Iraqi scholars said in their letter that the Pontiff should condemn UN trade sanctions against Iraq for its 1990 invasion of Kuwait, a condemnation the Holy Father has made several times. The seven academics are part of a team assembled by Iraqi President Saddam Hussein as part of an effort to rewrite the country's history.
The US, Britain, and Iraqi opposition leaders have expressed reservations about the papal trip because they believe Saddam would use the trip as propaganda for the regime.
CWN 9:57am 30/9/99