Cardinal Laghi Shrugs Off Speculation About U.S. Trip

VATICAN CITY, FEB. 10, 2003 ( Cardinal Pio Laghi said he knows nothing about a plan to send him as a papal envoy to dissuade Washington from attacking Iraq.

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The 81-year-old cardinal is considered by the Italian press to be the likely papal envoy who would ask the United States to avoid a war with Saddam Hussein.

Today, Cardinal Laghi said that any decision on the matter would be made after Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz visits the Pope this week.

«I know nothing about this mission,» the cardinal told the Italian Ansa agency. «I read it in the newspapers.»

Pio Laghi was apostolic delegate in Washington from 1980 to 1984 and became apostolic nuncio after official U.S.-Vatican relations were established in 1984.

Told that Cardinal Roger Etchegaray learned about his own peace mission to Iraq from the newspapers, Cardinal Laghi answered: «Really, the French cardinal knew nothing until the last moment» before departing for Baghdad.

Tariq Aziz, a Chaldean-rite Catholic, plans to visit John Paul II on Friday. He might arrive in Rome accompanied by Cardinal Etchegaray.

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