| Students at Baghdad’s International School hug each other during a farewell gathering on Thursday. The students are abandoning the school as they get ready to leave Iraq ahead of a feared US attack. (AFP)
Vatican City, Feb. 6 (Reuters): Pope John Paul’s pointman for peace said today an attack on Iraq would unleash terrorism and kill civilians and called the latest evidence by US secretary of state Colin Powell unconvincing and vague.
In an interview with Reuters, Archbishop Renato Martino, president of the Vatican’s justice and peace department, said the pope was deeply saddened by the recent turn of events.
He also stressed the Vatican’s stand that it could not consider any US-led action against Iraq a “just war” and that there were perhaps economic reasons behind the conflict.
“I wonder why those who want to make war do not take into account the serious consequences,” Martino said.
“The reaction in the Muslim world will be enormous. Acts of terrorism will increase dramatically,” said Martino, who served as Vatican representative to the UN for 16 years.
“Even if it is a two, three-day strike, what about later' What about the consequences inside and outside Iraq' I’m afraid that a war would completely affect the whole area of the Middle East...and will increase refugees, terrorism and endanger the environment,” he said. Martino spoke as the Vatican raised its diplomatic profile in the Iraqi crisis to try to avert war.
The pope will receive German foreign minister Joschka Fischer tomorrow and Iraqi deputy Prime Minister Tareq Aziz, one of Iraq’s most prominent Christians, will see the pope next week.
Martino gave a lukewarm reaction to evidence against Iraq presented by Powell to the UN yesterday. “My first impression is that this (Powell’s new evidence) is vague,” he said. He also described it as “unconvincing”.
The Vatican has been on a collision course with the Bush administration over any war in Iraq, making clear it would not consider an attack a “just war”.
In Christian teaching that means use of force must meet tough conditions of moral legitimacy. To be considered a “just war”, all other means must be exhausted and force must be proportionate to the wrong it tries to rectify. Asked if he believed an eventual war on Iraq would be based on economic interests, he said: “That’s part of it, too.”
“The pope has said that war must always be a last resort. If there is a war we have to see if 3,000 bombs or missiles will strike only military targets without killing civilians, or if they hit power plants. Then hospitals don't have electricity. The entire population will suffer, the sick, the poor, children,” he said.
Martino said the West needed to address the causes of terrorism.
”It is possible to eliminate one, two or 1,000 terrorists but if you don't go to the cause of terrorism you will never eradicate this terrible phenomenon. And the causes are political, economic and cultural,” he said.
”Not only the United States but the entire West should make an examination of conscience of how we oppress the rest of the world Ä unkept promises (and) spreading ways of life that are not moral or acceptable to the rest of the world,” he said.