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Cease-fire Is Possible and Necessary, Says Vatican

Archbishop Lajolo Comments on Conference Over Lebanon

VATICAN CITY, JULY 27, 2006 ( The results of the crisis talks in Rome regarding Lebanon were significant, said the Vatican secretary for relations with states, even though an immediate cease-fire was not achieved.

Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo, in an interview today on Vatican Radio, analyzed the results of the conference Wednesday. He attended the meeting as an observer.

With regards to a call for an immediate cease-fire, “unanimity among the participants was not achieved because some countries maintained that an appeal would not have produced the desired effect,” the Vatican representative said. “And it was felt more realistic to express a commitment to achieve without delay a cessation of hostilities, a commitment which can, in fact, be maintained.”

“An immediate suspension of hostilities is possible, and, therefore, necessary,” he added.

Archbishop Lajolo stated that “the position of those who maintain that conditions must first be created so that any truce is not once again violated, is only apparently one of realism, because those conditions can and must be created with means other than the killing of innocent people.”

In this connection, the archbishop considered “problematic” the fact that in the final declaration — written by the U.S. secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, and Italy’s foreign minister, Massimo D’Alema — “limited itself to inviting Israel to exercise the greatest restraint.”

“By its nature, this call has a certain inevitable ambiguity, while respect for the innocent civilian population is a precise and binding duty,” Archbishop Lajolo said.

Positive points

The archbishop pointed out, however, four positive elements of the conference: the commitment made by various countries to help Lebanon; the request for an international force, under the mandate of the United Nations, to support the regular Lebanese army in security matters; the commitment to send humanitarian aid; and the resolution of the participants to follow further developments in Lebanon.

The Vatican secretary of state, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, who on Wednesday evening received Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora in the Vatican, after the conclusion of the conference, said today in comments to the Italian newspaper Il Corriere della Sera that he was disappointed by the lack of an agreement on an immediate cease-fire.

“We are before a humanitarian problem of the first order and in its solution all men of good will should find a way to cooperate,” said Cardinal Sodano, who will leave office in September.

“The integrity of Lebanon must also be safeguarded, but obviously today priority must be given to human lives,” added Cardinal Sodano. He emphasized that Benedict XVI is following the events in Lebanon with great concern.

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