To Abandon Iraq Would Be to Risk a Civil War, Warns Cardinal Martino

Says That Solution Calls for a Multilateral Agreement Within U.N.

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ROME, APRIL 20, 2004 ( Leaving Iraq to its own devices at this time would risk triggering a civil war there, says the president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.

At the same time, Cardinal Renato Martino noted that all the parties involved are accepting a multilateral solution, as John Paul II proposed from the beginning, but «he was not listened to.»

In an interview today with the Italian daily Il Corriere della Sera, the cardinal said that at present «it is imprudent to leave the field as it means leaving Iraq in civil war.»

«It is not wise» to put pressure on the United Nations because «it will not be able to assume responsibility for the Iraqi situation before June 30,» added the cardinal, who was the Holy See’s permanent observer to the United Nations in New York for 16 years.

«I am confident,» he said. «And I see at last that all say that the solution must be found in multilateralism and in the role of the United Nations. It is exactly what the Pope said from the beginning, but he was not listened to.»

«Now, all understand the wisdom of this position, in part because the risk is evident that Iraq will plunge into a war of all against all, which would end in a fundamentalist regime,» the cardinal added.

To avoid this situation, he proposed «a joint effort of international consensus. … The United Nations must be given time. To write the text of a resolution, patient and continuous negotiation is needed.»

«If the United Nations is really going to carry out its function, it certainly needs a reform of procedures and structures, but growth is also necessary, in the world, of an attitude of confidence in its possibilities and of respect» for the times it sets.

Regarding the new Spanish government’s decision to withdraw its soldiers from Iraq, the cardinal said: «It is completely understandable that it wishes to keep to the commitment» made during the electoral campaign, but «the possibilities of the United Nations must not be mistrusted» ahead of time.

«Pressure is being exerted when time should be given,» the cardinal said. He recalled that in the outbreak of the war the coalition of countries that supported the intervention did not have the patience to wait for agreed solutions and for the completion of the work of U.N. inspectors.

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