February 20, 2003

VATICAN CITY (RNS)--The Vatican has called disarming Iraq a "just andurgent cause" but said it must be done through the process of weaponsinspection and the building of an international consensus to block a U.S.attack on Baghdad.

Archbishop Celestino Migliore, the Holy See's new permanent observer atthe United Nations, made the most detailed statement to date on theVatican's Iraq policy in an address to the U.N. Security Council onWednesday. The Vatican Press Office issued his statement onThursday.

John Paul and U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, who conferred at theVatican on Tuesday, agreed on the "essential role" of the UnitedNations to defuse the crisis.

"The Holy See realizes that the international community is rightlyworried and is addressing a just and urgent cause: the disarmament ofarsenals of mass destruction, a threat surfacing not just in a singleregion, but unfortunately in other parts of our world," Migliore said. But, urging the international community to "draw strength from thewealth of peaceful tools proved by the international law," he said war wouldnot be a "just" tool to use against Iraq.

"To the grave consequences for a civilian population that has alreadybeen tested long enough are added the dark prospects of tensions andconflicts between peoples and cultures and the deprecated reintroduction ofwar as a way to resolve untenable situations," the prelate said.

The Vatican representative called on Security Council members to line upbehind the weapons inspection process instead, presenting a united frontagainst the U.S. push for armed intervention. He said "the vast majority ofthe international community" has called for a diplomatic resolution of thecrisis, and "that call should not be ignored."

"The Holy See is convinced that even though the process of inspectionsappears somewhat slow, it still remains an effective path that could lead tothe building of a consensus, which, if widely shared by nations, would makeit almost impossible for any government to act otherwise without riskinginternational isolation," Migliore said.

"The Holy See is therefore of the view that it is also the proper paththat would lead to an agreed and honorable resolution to the problem, which,in turn, could provide the basis for a real and lasting peace," he said. Migliore said the message papal envoy Cardinal Roger Etchegaraydelivered to Iraqi President Saddam Hussein in Baghdad last Saturday stressed "the need for concrete commitments in faith to adherence to therelevant resolutions of the United Nations."

"Moreover," the prelate said, "in view of the devastating aftermath of apossible military intervention, the special envoy of the pope made an appealto the conscience of all those who have a role to play in determining thefuture of the crisis in these coming decisive days."

The pope conveyed a "similar message" to Iraqi Deputy Prime MinisterTariq Aziz at a Vatican audience last week, he said.

"The Holy See encourages the parties concerned to keep the dialogue openthat could bring about solutions in preventing a possible war and urges theinternational community to assume its responsibility in dealing with anyfailings by Iraq," Migliore said.