VATICAN CITY, MAY 27, 2004 ( Opponents of the war in Iraq should help in the country's pacification, says a Vatican official.

Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo, Vatican secretary for relations with states, made that affirmation in an interview today with the newspaper Il Corriere della Sera, in advance of the June 4 visit by U.S. President George Bush to the Pope.

"The United States has a primary role today at the international level and because of this, a commitment is also expected of it that measures up to the moral values that belong to the most glorious pages of its history and that are written in its Constitution," Archbishop Lajolo said.

"I have no doubt that President Bush's meeting with the Holy Father will be the occasion to reaffirm the commitments of peace and solidarity between peoples that derive from them, and to give them a new urgency," the Italian prelate added.

Responding to a journalist's question, who recalled the Holy See's opposition to the military intervention in Iraq, Archbishop Lajolo said: "Now we must look ahead."

Iraq calls for "a collective effort of all responsible political forces to bring back normal conditions of life to the country as soon as possible, to pacify it internally and to again give it sovereignty, freedom, dignity and prospects of a better future."

"Let us not forget that the soldiers of the United States in Iraq -- just like the contingent of Italian soldiers in Nasiriyah -- are primarily committed to these objectives," he pointed out.

"Their situation is certainly extremely difficult, because of the attacks of which they are the object of not a few Iraqi extremist groups that want them to appear in the role of aggressors and not liberators and pacifiers, according to the mission that has been entrusted to them," Archbishop Lajolo added.

Given the damage caused by American soldiers' torture of Iraqis, the prelate said that the United States must remedy this by paying "greater attention to the religious and moral sensibility of the Iraqi people."

"More specifically, there will now be a request for ample and sensible political, diplomatic and cultural action to try to neutralize the disastrous and very widespread effect of images that are difficult to forget," he continued.

"History teaches that also within great democratic countries, errors are committed that are contrary to their own ideals; but precisely in democracies is the strength to recognize them with courageous objectivity and to correct them," he said. "This is one of those values, I would say exemplary, of which the United States can be proud."