Holy See Willing to Mediate for Iraqi City

Vatican Secretary of State Makes Announcement

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VATICAN CITY, AUG. 16, 2004 (Zenit.org).- The Holy See manifested publicly its readiness to mediate to save Najaf, the Shiite holy city in Iraq.

In an interview on a news program of Italian public radio, GR RAI, Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Angelo Sodano said that «if requested, the Pope will allow this mediation.»

«The objective is that all parties sit around a table and talk,» the cardinal said.

«The whole endeavor of the Pope and of the Holy See is an endeavor of mediation, although not always in the technical sense, provided by international law, for which mediation can only be requested by a state,» he added.

«But there is another type of mediation closer to what we might call ‘good offices.’ It is a concrete action of mediation, designed to encourage the parties to talk,» the cardinal explained. «We are always ready to carry out this action. The Pope certainly does not hesitate.»

In the exclusive interview with RAI’s reporter, the cardinal said that «the killings that have been repeated in these months are a dishonor for Islam and for the noble Iraqi people.»

«We appeal for respect for the sacred character of the city, but at the same time we condemn all forms of violence,» he said.

The radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and some 800 men have been shut-in in the venerated mosque of Imam Ali Ben Taleb since Sunday. That is when the U.S. forces, supported by Iraqi police, launched an offensive against the principal strongholds of the militia in Najaf, some 200 kilometers (125 miles) south of Baghdad.

The Iraqi National Conference appealed to Muqtada al-Sadr to abandon the struggle.

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