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2,000 British Clergy Oppose Iraq Attack


More than 2,000 religious leaders in Britain have signed a petition expressing opposition to any military attack on Iraq. The petition has been delivered to Prime Minister Tony Blair's official residence, 10 Downing Street.

Over 2,500 names of religious groups and church leaders from many denominations appear on the petition including the name of the incoming archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, who will assume his new role in October.

The declaration, drawn up by the Christian peace group Pax Christi, calls any such attacks immoral and illegal.

The protest comes at a time when it appears that Tony Blair's government would support a U.S. strike against Saddam Hussein, although there are dissenting voices within his own ruling Labor party.

The petition states that it is deplorable that the world's most powerful nations continue to regard war and the threat of war as an acceptable instrument of foreign policy.

Among those signing up is the Anglican bishop of Coventry Colin Bennets, who predicted that "there will be huge numbers of casualties, and bear in mind that most casualties in modern war are civilian. Ninety percent of casualties are civilians and of those half are children," said Bishop Bennets. "We hear talk about body bags being flown back to the West. In fact it's the civilians there who will suffer far more."

Rev. Bennets adds that a lack of information in the public domain is a great cause of concern. "The reasons of principle for a nation, a superpower nation, to set out to attack another one, to depose its ruler ... that needs very, very good evidence and we haven't actually been presented with that evidence," he said.

Two months Prime Minister Blair said he would be releasing such an evidence dossier but he now says that the timing is not right.

Meanwhile, pressure is mounting on Mr. Blair to recall parliament to debate the issue. The official line from Mr. Blair's office is that such a recall is not necessary right now as no final decision has been made yet.

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