- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 9, 2003

VATICAN CITY, Vatican City, Feb. 9 (UPI) — Pope John Paul II has launched an Iraq peace effort by sending a senior personal representative to urge Saddam Hussein to cooperate fully with the international weapons inspectors.

The Vatican spokesman, Joachim Navarro Vals, said Sunday that the pope has sent Cardinal Roger Etchegaray to Baghdad where he expects to see Saddam in the next few days.

Etchegaray, a senior Vatican-based prelate who as the pope's personal envoy last year had a hand in negotiating a peaceful end to the Israeli siege of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, will try to persuade the Iraqi leader to avert war by complying with U.N. Resolution 1441, Vals said.

The resolution returned the U.N. arms inspectors to Iraq and called on Saddam to hand over all secret stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction.

Pope John Paul made no reference to Etchegaray's mission in his regular noon appearance overlooking St Peter's Square. But he urged the crowd to pray for a peaceful resolution to the Iraq crisis.

The start of the new century was beset with problems, he said. "Only an intervention from on high … can give us hope that the future will be less dark," the pope went on.

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