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[casi] Iraqi Bishop Lashes Out at US

Rather interesting to see that amongst the leaders in the Catholic Church
there is overwhelming opposition to war against Iraq and there is a definite
hostility towards the US and a deep recognition of the fact that US policy
towards Iraq is fueled by a lust for oil and power.

VATICAN, Jan 20, 03 ( -- Bishop Mikhael Ali Jamil, an Iraqi

native now living in Europe, has issued a harsh denunciation of


policy toward his homeland.

Bishop Al Jamil serves the Syrian Catholic Patriarchate of Antioch, as

an apostolic visitor for Europe. His base is in Rome, and he made his

remarks on the mounting crisis in Iraq in an interview with the Roman

news agency I Media.

The bishop remarked that among the ordinary people of Iraq, the


question is: "Is it going to happen?" He added that the Iraqis are

particularly fearful of a war that would divide their country, "which

would be a terrible thing for our nation, because we have always lived

in fairly good unity."

Bishop Al Jamil gave his support to the accusations advanced against


policy makers by the Jesuit editors of Civilta Cattolica. Asked


he agree with the Jesuit journal's charge that US policy is based on

economic motives, he replied: "That's obvious!" The bishop pursued the

claim further, claiming that "the US intends, with the help of local

powers, to break down Iraq economically and even intellectually. He


that arguments about weapons of mass destruction-- which many other

countries possess-- are "excuses for dividing Iraq, to gain better

access to the oil and the riches of the Gulf."

The bishop also expressed certainty that American policy is heavily

influenced by Israel: "a country that is afraid of peace and its

consequences." He charged that US policy has sought to weaken the Arab

world, in order to avoid settling the claims of the Palestinians who

command Arab support.

The bishop also warned: "If this war that American wants against Iraq

does break out, it would inevitably lead to other conflicts in the

Middle East."

The Iraqi bishop denied reports that Christians are oppressed within


Arabic world, and especially in Iraq. While acknowledging that


freedom is not as broad as in Europe, he pointed out that Catholics

practice their faith openly in Iraq, without fear of the consequences.

He pointed to the prominence of Tariq Aziz, a Catholic who serves as

deputy prime minister under Saddam Hussein.

Reporting that international sanctions have taken a heavy toll on the

Iraqi people, Bishop Al Jamil complained that most nations have been

silent in the face of that suffering-- as well as in the face of

threatened war. "John Paul II is the only one who always defends the

Iraqi people," he said.

Asked whether he considered a war inevitable, the bishop replied: "For


long time, I have had the impression that war would not come to pass.

But is that a desire or a vision? I just hope it is true."

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