US Bishops Condemn Use of Force in Iraq

and ask for "re-examination of the embargo so as not to destroy the lives of innocent civilians."

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Courtesy of Zenit news agency

Vatican City, February 18, 1997 (ZENIT) -- In an unusual move on its behalf, today the Vatican Press Office published the letter of the seven active Cardinals of the United States who have written to President Clinton, stating that a U.S. attack on Iraq would be unjustifiable and could jeopardize any possibility for lasting peace in the region. The letter was also signed by Bishop Anthony Pilla of Cleveland, President of the National Council of Catholic Bishops (NCCB).

During the past few days, sources in the Vatican have revealed that the Pope, personally, or through his closest collaborators, has carried out an intense diplomatic activity in an effort to deter any form of war in the Gulf region. Among other initiatives, he has urged Boris Yeltsin and other world leaders to more actively promote diplomatic dialogue as opposed to military intervention.

In a recent interview with the Italian Press, Archbishop Renato Martino, the Vatican's Permanent Observer to the United Nations, made public that he met with UN General Secretary Kofi Annan, last Sunday to invite him to consider a trip to Baghdad in order to personally discuss the compliance of the UN resolutions with the Libyan President and to intercede for peace.

"I told him of the Holy See's preoccupation in light of the development of the Iraqi crisis," Martino explained. "The Pope has received appeals for peace from several governments and John Paul wanted these requests to be communicated personally to Annan on his behalf, inviting him to travel to Iraq."

The letter of the US cardinals comes as one more attempt to dissuade the use of military means at all costs in the Gulf conflict. At the beginning of the two page letter, the cardinals recognize the "untenable position of Saddam Hussein" and express their support of "all peaceful efforts by the international community to have the Iraqi leadership comply with the UN resolutions."

But at the same time, they "recognize the danger of this situation" and "view with grave concern" the US "readiness. . . to use military force."

"In our considered judgments, this action by the US could be exceedingly difficult if not impossible to justify and would seriously jeopardize the possibility of achieving any lasting peace in the region."

In accord with the Pope's previous initiatives, which they mention explicitly, the signers affirm that "all of this leads us to the conclusion that renewed diplomatic efforts are the roper course of action. We write, therefore, to urge that instead of using the military option, you reinforce the diplomatic initiatives by widening the participation of other governments, especially Arab states, in the concerted effort to bring about Iraqi compliance on these issues."

The American cardinals do not stop at rejecting a military option, but go even further urging "a re-examination of the embargo to allow more humanitarian aid for the Iraqi people, and to insure that it is more narrowly targeted so as not to destroy the lives of innocent civilians."

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