VATICAN OFFICIAL REPEATS: NO WAR WITHOUT UN APPROVAL

VATICAN, Mar 14, 03  (CWNews.com) -- Archbishop Renato Martino, the president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, today emphatically repeated the Vatican's stance that no military action against Iraq should be undertaken without UN approval.

Speaking on Vatican Radio, the archbishop-- who was formerly the permanent observer for the Holy See at the UN-- "this crisis cannot be resolved except through the United Nations." He said that the UN's resolution #1441 provides the basis for a resolution, and urged world leaders to give UN inspectors time to complete their work. "We have seen that Iraq is beginning to cooperate," Archbishop Martino said.

Asked about the possibility that Saddam Hussein might be persuaded to go into exile, the archbishop said: "That could be the better solution, it would only go so far, because we cannot predict what would happen" after Saddam's departure. Last week, a Scottish newspaper reported that Vatican diplomats were seeking to negotiate Saddam's departure into exile; the Vatican has denied that report.

The Vatican official added that UN resolutions should be made without undue pressure from powerful nations. "If all countries are equal at the UN," he said, "they should all have the freedom to make decisions according to their own judgment." He complained that "it is not right for the great powers to put pressure on the small states."

Archbishop Martino's remarks on Vatican Radio were among the few public statements made by leading Vatican officials this week. Most members of the Roman Curia have set their work aside to participate in the annual Lenten Retreat, which concludes on Saturday morning

VATICAN DIPLOMATS WILL NOT LEAVE IRAQ IF WAR BEGINS

VATICAN, Mar 14, 03  (CWNews.com) -- The papal nuncio in Iraq will remain in Baghdad even in the event of war, the Holy See has announced.

"It is a time-honored tradition of the Holy See that its diplomatic representatives remain close to the population to whom they have been sent, even in situations of extreme danger," said Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls in a March 14 announcement.

The apostolic nuncio in Iraq, Archbishop Fernando Filoni, will remain at work, along with his staff, although many other diplomats are leaving Baghdad. In 1991, during the Gulf War, Vatican diplomats were virtually alone in their decision to remain in Iraq.