CHALDEAN BISHOP CRITICIZES US OCCUPATION OF IRAQ

Baghdad, Sep. 17 (CWNews.com) - A Chaldean Catholic bishop has criticized the US military occupation of Iraq, saying that the American troops show little respect for Iraqi culture.

Bishop Shlemon Warduni, an auxiliary bishop for the Chaldean patriarchate of Baghdad, made his criticisms in an interview that appears in the latest issue of the Italian magazine Famiglia Cristiana. The Iraqi bishop said that the situation facing the people of Baghdad today is "unlivable." He reported: "We are without drinkable water, and we have been without gas and electricity all this time."

Bishop Warduni argued that American troops seemed unconcerned about the suffering of the civilian population. "A single day's blackout in New York mobilized everyone, but nobody is concerned after five months without energy in Baghdad," he complained. The bishop argued that American troops have missed an opportunity to show their concern for the local population by providing "a few more generators, some medicine and food."

Instead, the bishop angrily argued, "They have closed our institutions, they have destroyed places reflecting our culture and our history." In effect, he said, "They have sown insecurity."

Bishop Warduni has developed a reputation as an outspoken critic of American policies. During the war he offered daily commentaries for Vatican Radio, and in his Famiglia Cristiana interview he renewed his charges that US policy was guided by a desire for oil and sympathy for Israel, without concern for the people of Iraq.

In a separate interview with the Fides news service, the bishop reiterated the demand of the Chaldean Church synod for inclusion of Catholics in the post-war government of Iraq. "We feel our rights are not being respected; they are being neglected," he told Fides. Bishop Warduni said that Christians and moderate Muslims can work together "to build a new democratic Iraq in which the rights of all citizens are guaranteed."