Pope Working on a Deal for Saddam's Exile, Reports Say

Plan Would Also Give Amnesty to Top Iraqi Military Officials

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Share this Entry

VATICAN CITY, MARCH 10, 2003 (Zenit.org).- Vatican officials say that John Paul II is trying to broker a deal to have Saddam Hussein accept exile and thus avoid an Iraq-U.S. war, a magazine reported.

«God willing, war may still be averted, even at this apparently late hour,» one Vatican official told Inside the Vatican magazine. «We are still hopeful.»

According to the proposal, Saddam and his family would be given 72 hours from Tuesday, March 11, to accept an offer of exile.

At the same time, dozens of Iraq’s top military leaders would be offered amnesty in return for full cooperation with the United Nations, according to published press reports.

The plan, brokered by the Vatican with Saudi Arabia and moderate Arab states, was evidently proposed by Pakistan during a closed-door meeting of the 10 non-permanent members of the U.N. Security Council on Friday.

Marion McKeone of the Sunday Herald newspaper in Glasgow, Scotland, reported from the United Nations in New York that the proposal could become part of a second resolution of the Security Council.

Under its terms, the United Nations would oversee the establishment of a post-Saddam government and the United Nations — not the United States — would take stewardship of Iraq’s oilfields.

The Iraqi generals and top ranking officers would have to cooperate fully with U.N. inspectors to oversee the elimination of any weapons of mass destruction, McKeone reported.

It wasn’t clear whether the proposal has any chance of being accepted. The Pope has been sending his emissaries on repeated missions to all the key parties during the past six weeks, as well as receiving key leaders at the Vatican on almost a daily basis.

His special envoy and former permanent observer at the United Nations, Archbishop Renato Martino, has been discussing the proposal with all the Security Council members, reports said.

Cardinal Pio Laghi, former papal nuncio to the United States, traveled to Washington, D.C., last week to meet with President George W. Bush. He handed him a letter directly from the Pope, the contents of which have not been made public.

British leader Tony Blair met with the Pope and other officials at the Vatican in February.

Cardinal Roger Etchegaray, one of John Paul II’s most relied-upon aides for «difficult missions,» went to Baghdad last month to meet personally with Saddam. At that meeting Etchegaray discussed the subject of exile with Saddam, reports said. Cardinal Etchegaray later said that Saddam did not rule out the idea.

Also in February, the Pope received Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz at the Vatican and, several days later, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

American sources confirm that the United States and Jordan have recently discussed the prospect of using the United Nations to offer a formal exile and amnesty package to Saddam and his inner circle, McKeone reported.

The proposed amendment is still at a low rung on the UN procedural ladder but the non-permanent members believe it represents a last best chance to avert a war.

U.N. sources have also indicated that a second resolution on Tuesday with the March 17 ultimatum — incorporating an offer of exile — would provide an attractive compromise that would let the French come on board without «losing face» or appearing to have capitulated to the United States.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Share this Entry


Support ZENIT

If you liked this article, support ZENIT now with a donation