Bishop in Iraq Urges Coalition Not to Exit

BAGHDAD, Iraq, APRIL 26, 2004 ( A bishop of the Chaldean Patriarchate here appealed to the countries of the coalition not to follow Spain’s decision to leave Iraq, saying the country’s security would be jeopardized.

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«We were against the war from the beginning, but now it is important that the foreign contingents stay in Iraq,» Bishop Shlemon Warduni said in statements Sunday to the Italian newspaper Il Corriere della Sera.

«If they abandon us, it will be worse,» he said. «It would be a catastrophe if Rome followed the bad example of Madrid.»

A former rector of the Baghdad Seminary, Bishop Warduni is collaborating in the effort to have civilian hostages freed, in particular three Italians who are in the country.

«The case of the kidnapped Italians is only the tip of the iceberg,» he said. «Over the year, thousands of Iraqis have been kidnapped: for money, for political vengeance, or for a thousand other reasons. Proportionally, the Catholic minority has been one of the worst hit.»

«For this reason too the coalition troops must stay,» the bishop said. «It is necessary to establish order, to provide security again. It would be a tragedy to respond to the conditions of the kidnappers.»

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