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Pope repeats call to End Sanctions

Another Appeal for an End to Iraq Embargo
Pope Also Asks for Respect of Human Rights

VATICAN CITY, APR. 29, 2001 ( John Paul II once again denounced
the economic embargo imposed on Iraq, which continues to cost civilian

The Pontiff made his appeal Saturday when he received Abdul-Amir Al-Anbari,
Baghdad's new ambassador to the Vatican. The envoy in the past has been his
country's ambassador to the United Nations, the United Kingdom and the
United States.

"I wish you to know of my esteem for the Iraqi people, whom I remember
daily in my prayer, especially in light of the continuing difficulties that
they face," the Holy Father said, when he welcomed the diplomat.

"As the embargo in your country continues to claim victims," the Pope
added, "I renew my appeal to the international community that innocent
people should not be made to pay the consequences of a destructive war
whose effects are still being felt by those who are weakest and most

Saddam Hussein's administration, and the economic embargo imposed on the
country following the 1990 invasion of Kuwait, have cost the lives of at
least 4,500 children under age 5 every month, according to a UNICEF report.

At the same time, the number of children begging on the streets has
increased, something that was unknown 10 years ago.

The embargo has raised serious questions, even among U.N. representatives
in the country. "What was acceptable 10 years ago, no longer is," U.N.
humanitarian coordinator Hans von Sponeck said, after handing in his
resignation. "This embargo is a clear violation of human rights."

The Pope also delivered a vigorous address in defense of human rights. The
Holy See, he said, sees as one of its chief duties that of reminding public
opinion that "no authority, no political program, and no ideology is
entitled to reduce human beings to what they can do or produce."

John Paul II continued: "The inalienable rights and personal dignity of
every human being must be upheld; the transcendent dimension of the human
person must be defended."

Before bidding the ambassador farewell, the Holy Father addressed Iraqi
Catholics. "In this context, my thoughts turn naturally to the members of
the Iraqi Catholic community," he said. "Together with their Muslim
countrymen, Iraqi Christians wish to work for unity and harmony."

"In Iraq, as in the world at large, dialogue between Christians and Muslims
is more necessary than ever," he added. "Through such dialogue, believers
will be enabled to respond positively to the call to respect one another,
to rise above all discrimination, and to serve the common good in a spirit
of brotherhood and understanding. In like manner, it is the obligation of
every government to ensure that the equality of all citizens before the law
is never violated for religious reasons, whether openly or covertly."

In his salute to the Pope, the Iraqi ambassador said that "geographically,
the Vatican might be one of the smallest states, but morally and
religiously it is one of the greatest."

The envoy added: "The role of the Holy See is universal, and is directed to
protect not only Catholics but the whole of humanity."

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