From combined dispatches
VATICAN CITY Pope John Paul II will send a special envoy to Iraq to emphasize his appeal for peace and to encourage Iraqi authorities to cooperate with the United Nations, the Vatican announced yesterday.
Meanwhile, Arab leaders met in Egypt to discuss what they could do to head off a war, and thousands of protesters in Indonesia marched against U.S. war plans.
Cardinal Roger Etchegaray, emeritus president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, was to leave Rome today for Baghdad, accompanied by a counselor, Monsignor Franco Coppola.
Their mission is to “show to all the plea of the Holy Father in favor of peace and to help the Iraqi authorities make a serious reflection on the need for effective international cooperation,” papal spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said in a statement.
Cardinal Etchegaray will be carrying a personal message from the pope, a Vatican official said. Meetings with top Iraqi officials, including perhaps President Saddam Hussein, were expected.
Leaders from Egypt, Syria and Libya met yesterday in the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm el Sheik to try to avert a war but acknowledged that delaying the conflict was out of their hands.
“The American Congress, the [U.N.] Security Council, the British Parliament and the American administration are the ones with the power to advance or delay the war on Iraq, which we don’t wish for,” Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak was quoted as saying.
Syrian President Bashar Assad, Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi and several other senior officials, including Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal and Arab League chief Amr Moussa, attended the talks.
Thousands of Indonesians turned out in Jakarta in one of its biggest demonstrations against U.S. action to date. The marchers ranged from students to families with babies in arms.
Indonesia’s official news agency estimated their number in the “tens of thousands,” but other observers said the crowd was closer to 7,000 when it marched past the U.S. Embassy, pausing occasionally for speeches and chants.
In the United States, band leader Dave Matthews joined a growing list of U.S. performers and celebrities to speak out against a war.
“Is [Saddam] our target because he is easier to identify than the illusive [al Qaeda] terrorist network?” he wrote on the band’s Web site. “Surely it is more likely that an attack on Iraq would only strengthen al Qaeda by feeding anti-American sentiment.”
John Paul reiterated his concerns yesterday, telling crowds gathered in St. Peter’s Square for his weekly appearance: “In this hour of international concern, we all feel the need to turn ourselves to the Lord to implore the great gift of peace.”
The pope was a vocal opponent of the 1991 Persian Gulf war, and over the years has spoken out frequently in opposition to U.N. sanctions imposed on Baghdad after its 1990 invasion of Kuwait.
A prominent conservative American Catholic, Michael Novak, is in Rome for meetings with senior Vatican officials to defend the hard-line U.S. position on Iraq.
In an interview yesterday with the Italian business daily Il Sole-24 Ore, Mr. Novak disputed the contention that a strike against Baghdad constituted a “preventive” war. Vatican officials have described any war against Iraq as a “preventive” strike and therefore not covered by the church’s “just war” doctrine.
“The conflict against Iraq, for the United States, started in 1991 and never finished,” Mr. Novak was quoted as saying.
Mr. Novak added that a war against Iraq would be “just” because there was an imminent threat of an attack against the United States and its allies in the aftermath of September 11.