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Pope Peace Message Takes Swipe at U.S. Over Iraq 

Tuesday, December 16, 2003 6:49 a.m. ET

By Philip Pullella

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope John Paul took a swipe at the United States and its allies Tuesday for invading Iraq without U.N. approval, suggesting they had succumbed to the temptation to use the law of force instead of the force of law.

In his World Day of Peace message, issued three days after the capture of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, he also appealed to democracies fighting terrorism to uphold the principles of international law and fundamental human rights.

In the message, which is sent to leaders of nations and world organizations, the 83-year-old pope also said the U.N. needed reform and the international community had to heal the underlying social injustices that can fuel terrorism.

In the 13-page message he appealed to terrorists, telling them that violence was not only unacceptable but compromises "the very cause for which you are fighting."

The message, called "An Ever-Timely Commitment: Teaching Peace," was largely dedicated to the theme of international law and its role in resolving conflicts between states.

Without mentioning any country by name, he recalled that the U.N. Charter "confirms the natural right to legitimate defense, to be exercised in specific ways and in the context of the United Nations."

He also recalled that the U.N. Security Council had responsibility for collective security with "competence and responsibility for the preservation of peace, with power of decision and ample discretion."


The Vatican did not consider the war in Iraq "a just war" because it was not backed by the United Nations and because the Vatican believed more negotiations were necessary to avoid it.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan warned Washington a week before the war started that without Security Council backing, a war to disarm Iraq would violate the world body's charter.

The pope said it was necessary for states to avoid the "temptation to appeal to the law of force rather than to the force of law."

He also said he realized that international law was "hard pressed" today because of the presence of terrorist groups which could not be considered states in the traditional sense of law.

"The scourge of terrorism has become more virulent in recent years and has produced brutal massacres which have in turn put even greater obstacles in the way of dialogue and negotiation ..." he wrote.

Force had to be accompanied by what he called "a courageous and lucid analysis of the reasons behind terrorist attacks."

The fight against terrorism had to aim at "eliminating the underlying causes of situations of injustice which frequently drive people to more desperate and violent acts..."

Combating terrorism "cannot justify a renunciation of the principles of the rule of law," he wrote, adding that political decisions must take into consideration fundamental human rights.

Civil rights groups have criticized new anti-terrorism laws enacted after September 11, 2001 that give the U.S. government the power to tap telephones, track Internet usage and cell phones, share intelligence information and detain immigrants.

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