Vatican: US, Backers Responsible Before God on Iraq
Tuesday, March 18, 2003; 7:14 AM
VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - The Vatican said on Tuesday countries that decide to wage war on Iraq without a global consensus must take responsibility before God and history -- making clear the Pope would not endorse their actions.
"Those who decide that all peaceful means that international law makes available are exhausted assume a grave responsibility before God, their conscience and history," said Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls.
Navarro-Valls' comment was the Vatican's first official reaction to Washington's ultimatum to Iraqi President Saddam Hussein to go into exile within 48 hours or face war. Both the British and Spanish prime ministers have backed Washington.
The latest developments will be a setback for Pope John Paul, who has led a vigorous diplomatic campaign against the threatened U.S.-led attack on Iraq, emerging as one of the world's most powerful anti-war voices.
At the weekend he issued a passionate plea for peace and said Iraq's leaders had a duty to cooperate with international community to avert war. He told both sides there was still time to negotiate.
The 82-year-old pontiff has held talks with world leaders who are opposed to war and those who are its staunchest supporters. He has also sent peace envoys to both Washington and Baghdad.
The Vatican has said it will not shut its embassy in Iraq even if war breaks out.
© 2003 Reuters