Patriarch of Iraq Condemns U.S.-British Bombing

Says Action Is Reinforcing Saddam´s Position

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BAGHDAD, Iraq, MAR. 2, 2001 ( The highest authority of the Catholic Church in Iraq has raised his voice to condemn the aerial attacks of Britain and the United States.

Speaking to the Vatican missionary agency Fides, Patriarch Raphael Bidawid, head of the Iraqi Church of Chaldean rite, used harsh terms. «There are no words left to condemn this use of force against the weak,» he said.

«In the Second World War, the Allies accused the Nazis of using the law of force,» he said. «However, what are the United States and Great Britain doing now against the Iraqi people? They talk about principles of humanity and human rights, but, where do they apply them? They must realize that we, Iraqis, also have the right to life and dignity. The Vatican, Italy, France and Russia have criticized the use of force; and we, the Baghdad Church, condemn these aggressive actions.»

The United States and Britain continue to control the Iraqi no-fly zones from north to south, despite the fact they have no U.N. mandate to do so. Bombings resumed Feb. 16 and 22. Two people died and 20 were wounded.

The Vatican agency Fides reports that, over three years these aerial attacks have cost 323 lives and thousands of wounded.

The bombing of Iraq does not help the Mideast peace process, the patriarch said.

«The reaction against the Americans and English is now affecting the whole Arab world,» he said. «All the Arabs are becoming fedayeen [guerrillas], prepared to exercise violence against the United States and Great Britain, in their own territories.»

He continued: «The time has arrived to begin a dialogue that is sincere in order to reach a solution. Blood and violence call for more blood and more violence. Our people, more and more crushed, are increasingly against Americans and Englishmen. The more they are mistreated, the more President Saddam Hussein is exalted.»

The patriarch appealed to the prudence of the governments of these countries. «Think of the common good that peace could bring to all, to us and to you yourselves,» he said. «If there is no return to dialogue, the ghost of war is not improbable, and the risk is run of a new chaos.»

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