- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 18, 2003

The Rev. Walter E. Fauntroy, former D.C. delegate to Congress who led ministers of several religious denominations to Iraq on a "pilgrimage for peace," said yesterday that he is discouraged U.S. government officials disregarded a peace proposal he brought back.
The pastor of new Bethel Baptist Church in Northwest and the seven other ministers met with U.S. and United Nations officials before flying to Iraq on March 2 in what he called "a desperate effort" to avert war. Mr. Fauntroy described the mission of the ministers, who represent Protestant, Catholic, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist and Sikh faiths, as a trip to the "ancient, fabled land of Baghdad."
"Things look very bleak," he said, and fear and destitution are rampant among the Iraqi people. "My impressions were that the people of Baghdad have been through tremendous hardships as result of the Gulf war of 1991 and the sanctions of the last 12 years."
Baghdad is "now the third world," Mr. Fauntroy said. "I see very young people navigating the streets, selling tissues and carrying shoeshine boxes. You run into a lot of people begging; many of them women, carrying infants. Their faces are full of pain."
But the children display hope, said Mr. Fauntroy, describing them as being proud and eagerly talking to him in broken English.
"We found they are a frightened people," Mr. Fauntroy said.
"They admire the American people, but they hate the American government." He spent four days visiting schools, churches and communities.
The seven ministers who accompanied him returned to the United States early, and Mr. Fauntroy stayed to meet with Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz.
"I sat face-to-face with Tariq Aziz for an hour and a half and told him I wouldn't leave until I got some hope of peace," said Mr. Fauntroy, who returned from Iraq on Wednesday. He took his peace proposal, the details of which he did not disclose, to Lawrence Wilkerson, chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, and James Larocci, undersecretary of state for Middle East Affairs.
"They told me it's too late. The decision has been made."

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