Pope and French Official Stress Need for Iraqi Civilians' Relief

Foreign Minister de Villepin Meets With John Paul II

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VATICAN CITY, APRIL 6, 2003 (Zenit.org).- A papal audience with France’s Foreign Minister highlighted the need to end the suffering of civilians in Iraq and to allow the people there to take control of their future.

John Paul II granted an audience to Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin on Friday afternoon. Afterward, the latter met with Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Vatican secretary of state, and with Archbishop Jean-Louis Tauran, secretary for relations with states, according to Vatican spokesman Joaquín Navarro-Valls.

«During the talks, reference was made to the war in Iraq and the need to shorten the sufferings of the civilian population, with the hope that the international community will help Iraqis to be, themselves, the architects of their reconstruction,» Navarro-Valls said.

Reference also was made «to the Israeli-Palestinian problem and a rapid solution, which will make possible the coexistence of the two sovereign states, as the indispensable condition for peace in the Middle East,» the Vatican spokesman stated.

«Lastly, mention was made of the work of the European Convention and of the future Constitutional Treaty of Europe to highlight the importance of recognizing the role of Churches and communities of believers,» he added.

De Villepin traveled to Rome after having talks in Paris with his counterparts, Igor Ivanov of Russia and Joschka Fischer of Germany, about the future of postwar Iraq. They agreed that the United Nations must play a key role in the country’s reconstruction.

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