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Pope Still Hopes to See Iraq in 2000

CRISIS IN THE GULF

December 20, 1998| Associated Press

VATICAN CITY — Pope John Paul II is still hoping to visit Iraq in 2000, the Vatican's secretary of state said Saturday.

Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the Vatican's No. 2 official, was asked by reporters at a ceremony if John Paul will make the trip as part of Holy Year activities.

"We hope so," Sodano replied. "It's in our prayers."

The pope has mentioned more than once that he would like to make a pilgrimage to Iraq, which includes the biblical birthplace of Abraham, but no plans for such a visit have been announced.

Speaking hours before President Clinton and British Prime Minister Tony Blair called a halt to the bombing in Iraq, Sodano renewed the Holy See's call for an end to the aerial assault.

Asked if the bombings constituted an aggression, the cardinal replied: "Either it's a war of defense or a war of aggression. There's no middle ground."

Earlier in the week, the Vatican's spokesman, Joaquin Navarro-Valls, said that the pope was saddened by the aerial strikes and that the Holy See hoped for a quick end to what it termed aggression.

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