Iraq's Compliance Must Be Pursued Through U.N., Says Cardinal Laghi

Envoy Issues Statement After Handing Papal Letter to President Bush

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WASHINGTON, D.C., MARCH 6, 2003 ( The Holy See insists that the Iraqi government must comply with U.N. resolutions, and says that the United Nations is the sole framework in which this compliance must be pursued.

This position was affirmed Wednesday by Cardinal Pio Laghi at the end of his meeting with President George W. Bush. During the meeting, the papal envoy handed the U.S. president a letter from John Paul II.

«Out of respect for the president and because of the importance of this moment, I am not in a position to discuss the substance of our conversation, nor am I able to release the text of the personal letter of the Holy Father to the president,» the cardinal explained in a statement afterward.

«The purpose of my visit was to deliver a personal message of the Holy Father to the president regarding the Iraqi crisis, to expound upon the Holy See’s position, and to report on the various initiatives undertaken by the Holy See to contribute to disarmament and peace in the Middle East,» the cardinal clarified.

During the meeting, held on Ash Wednesday, the cardinal told Bush about the worldwide support for the day of prayer and fasting for peace called by the Pope. Cardinal Laghi stressed that the Holy See is urging all those in civil authority to consider fully all the aspects of this crisis.

The cardinal clarified the Vatican’s position in this respect. «First, the Iraqi government is obliged to fulfill completely and fully its international obligations regarding human rights and disarmament under the U.N. resolutions with respect for international norms.»

«Second, these obligations and their fulfillment must continue to be pursued within the framework of the United Nations,» he continued.

Cardinal Laghi emphasized that there are still peaceful avenues to be explored for the resolution of the conflict in international law and institutions, «which exist for that purpose.»

Moreover, he stressed that the decision to use force could only be made in the context of the United Nations, «but always taking into account the grave consequences of such an armed conflict.»

Among the consequences, the cardinal mentioned «the suffering of the people of Iraq and those involved in the military operation, a further instability in the region, and a new gulf between Islam and Christianity.»

«I want to emphasize that there is great unity on this grave matter on the part of the Holy See, the bishops of the United States, and the Church throughout the world,» Cardinal Laghi said in his statement.

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