Moscow Patriarch Urges Peaceful Solution in Iraq Crisis

Warns of Harm to Civilians, and Fears an Ecological Catastrophe

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MOSCOW, MARCH 17, 2003 ( Russian Orthodox Patriarch Alexy II appealed to the U.S. and British governments, and others favoring an attack on Iraq, to opt for peaceful solutions to the crisis.

The Moscow patriarch said in a statement today that the Orthodox Church «is concerned for the proliferation and the use of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction.»

He reminded those who favor a military operation that «the observance of international norms in this area is one of the essential conditions for peace on the planet.»

«The decision to resume the work of international inspectors was accepted with satisfaction by the majority of people on our planet because that meant the choice for a peaceful way of settling the existing problems,» Alexy II said.

«The war in Iraq will inevitably lead to the death and suffering of a tremendous number of innocent people, as always in such a case, civilians like children, women, old people will be injured,» he added. «There will be thousands of refugees.

«It is absolutely obvious that military operations in this oil region can turn out to be a global ecological catastrophe. All this may blow up the situation in the Middle East, creating a threat to peace and stability in the whole world. The violation of legal norms sows chaos and arbitrariness, for lawlessness always generates more lawlessness.»

On Sunday, a delegation of religious leaders of the Russian Orthodox Church and of the country’s Muslim minority announced that they will go to Baghdad on a «peace mission,» Interfax agency reported.

The delegation, accompanied by Abbas Khalaf, Iraq’s ambassador in Moscow, was scheduled to meet with Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz, Russian government sources reported.

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