By Shasta Darlington VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope John Paul
has stepped up his peace offensive, meeting the Spanish prime minister and a
senior Iranian official as a decision on a US-led war against Iraq nears (Franco
Pope steps up peace drive
By Shasta Darlington
February 27, 2003
VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope John Paul
has stepped up his peace offensive,
meeting the Spanish prime
minister and a senior Iranian official
as a decision on a U.S.-led war against
The 82-year-old pontiff first received
Spain's Jose Maria Aznar, one of
America's staunchest allies on the
Nations Security Council, for a
half-hour tete-a-tete on Thursday.
After Aznar left, Iran's deputy
parliamentary speaker, Mohammad Reza
Khatami, brother and personal envoy of
President Mohammad Khatami, arrived for
"The Holy Father hopes that all of
the parties involved -- without
exceptions -- adopt just decisions and
undertake peaceful and efficient
initiatives that comply with justice and
are inspired in international law,"
Vatican said in a statement.
Both parties agreed that a united action
via the United Nations was needed to
confront the crisis, it added.
Aznar and Khatami are just the latest in
a line of foreign leaders who have
sought the pope's ear on the crisis.
The pope has repeatedly called for a
peaceful solution to the standoff,
declaring that a war would be a
for humanity", sparking terrorism
and religious divisions.
"I came here to speak to the pope
because the position of Iran and the
Vatican are very close," Khatami
Italy's state RAI television.
"PEACE DOESN'T FALL FROM THE
Aznar, who has supported Washington
despite widespread opposition from
Spain's largely Roman Catholic
electorate, presented his case for
wanting to rid Iraq of President Saddam
Hussein to one of the world's leading
"I hold His Holiness in the
greatest consideration and I will listen
to him with great attention, as
said in an interview with Italy's
"La Stampa" on Thursday.
"But John Paul knows very well
that...peace doesn't fall
from the sky."
Still, after a meeting later with
Italian Prime Minister Silvio
Berlusconi, another ally of Washington,
that war could still be avoided.
"With more pressure and unity from
everyone we can arrive at a peaceful
solution to this crisis and disarm
On Thursday, the Italian media said U.S.
President George W. Bush had shrugged
off the pope's pleas for
peace, quoting White House spokesman Ari
Fleischer as saying Bush would not be
influenced by the pontiff's
But other leaders are seeking his
counsel. Over the past month the pope
has received British Prime Minister
Tony Blair, Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister
Tareq Aziz, German Foreign Minister
Joschka Fischer and U.N.
Secretary-General Kofi Annan.
The Vatican dispatched a special envoy
this month to Baghdad to urge Saddam to
cooperate fully with U.N.
The pontiff has called for a day of
peace and fasting on March 5, Ash
Wednesday, to show that "the future
humanity will never be secured by
terrorism or the logic of war".
Vatican officials concede that the pope
alone is not going to prevent a U.S.-led
attack, but they say that at the
very least his anti-war stance shows the
Muslim world that a strike against Iraq
is not some kind of a Christian
How can we manifest peace on
earth if we do not include everyone (all races, all nations, all religions, both
sexes) in our vision of Peace?
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