Vatican Official to U.N.: Iraq War Didn't Slow Terror

VATICAN CITY — Addressing the United Nations, a leading Vatican official said the war in Iraq did not make the world safer and that defeating terrorism will require multilateral cooperation that goes beyond short-term military operations.

Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo, the Vatican's top foreign affairs official, made the remarks Sept. 29 in a speech to the U.N. General Assembly. The text was released at the Vatican Sept. 30.

Archbishop Lajolo offered a far-ranging review of Vatican positions on peace and justice issues, saying global poverty must be the No. 1 priority for the United Nations and for all international agencies.

“The urgency of the situation cannot tolerate delay,” he said. He noted that hundreds of millions of people are living below the threshold of what is necessary, and tens of millions of children are under-nourished.

Turning to Iraq, Archbishop Lajolo said the Vatican's opposition to military action in Iraq in 2002-2003 was well known.

“Everyone can see that it did not lead to a safer world either inside or outside Iraq,” he said.

Under the present circumstance, he added, the Vatican believes it is imperative to support the provisional Iraqi government as it tries to bring the country to normality and establish a political system that is “substantially democratic and in harmony with the values of its historic traditions.”

He called terrorism an “aberrant phenomenon, utterly unworthy of man” that today threatens all countries.

While every nation has the right to protect its citizens, he said, “it seems obvious that terrorism can only be effectively challenged through a concerted multilateral approach … and not through the politics of unilateralism.”

“No one is in any doubt that the fight against terrorism means, first and foremost, neutralizing its active breeding grounds. But the underlying causes are many and complex: political, social, cultural, religious,” he said.

For that reason, he said, even more important is long-term action directed at terrorism's roots and designed to stop it from spreading.

Archbishop Lajolo addressed several other major international issues:

• On disarmament, he called for severe and effective international controls on the production and sales of conventional weapons. He praised U.N. efforts to date, but said “huge economic interests” remain as obstacles.

Weapons of mass destruction and their possible use represent a separate problem, the archbishop said. But he reminded the assembly that conventional weapons are being used in “numerous armed conflicts that stain the world in blood” and in terrorism.

• The Palestinian-Israeli conflict, he said, will require not only justice but also mutual forgiveness, which requires greater courage than the use of weapons. He called on a return to the “road map” peace plan, which has been formally accepted by both parties.

• African conflicts in Sudan, Somalia, the Great Lakes region, Ivory Coast and elsewhere call for greater international attention and authoritative intervention by the African Union, he said.

• The right to life has special application in the human cloning issue, Archbishop Lajolo said. The United Nations is scheduled to debate it this fall. The archbishop reiterated the Vatican's call for a comprehensive ban on human cloning; he said the Vatican supports procurement of adult stem cells as opposed to cells taken from human embryos.

Archbishop Lajolo also raised the question of U.N. internal reform aimed at increasing its peacekeeping effectiveness around the world. In general, he said, the United Nations needs more room to operate before conflicts begin.

He suggested that the United Nations be given “special prerogatives to facilitate action to prevent conflicts at times of international crisis, and also, when absolutely necessary, ‘humanitarian intervention,’ that is, action aimed at disarming the aggressor.”

Quoting Pope John Paul II, the archbishop said U.N. effectiveness will also depend on whether it can rise from “the cold status of an administrative institution” to the status of “a moral center” where all the nations of the world feel at home.

The Vatican's position was echoed in the pages of an important Rome magazine.

Although Islamic terrorists have been unable to reach major objectives, they have kept up a steady stream of vicious attacks ranging from Spain to Saudi Arabia to southern Russia, said the magazine, La Civilta Cattolica, in an editorial to be published in its Oct. 2 edition.

The journal's commentaries are considered reflective of Vatican thinking because they are approved before publication by officials at the Vatican Secretariat of State.

The editorial said a “tragic line … the line of Islamic terrorism” runs from the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the United States through subsequent attacks in Indonesia, Tunisia, Spain, Turkey, Morocco and Moscow. It said the most recent addition was Beslan, Russia, where proChechen rebels killed more than 400 people in a school.

That does not count the innumerable attacks in Iraq, Afghanistan and other places of open conflict, the editorial said.

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