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Pope: Iraq Must Respect UN Resolutions

Pope John Paul II told Iraq's deputy prime minister Friday that Iraq must respect United Nations resolutions and take concrete action to comply.

Security was stepped up significantly at the Vatican for the visit by Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz Friday morning. The Pope and Mr. Aziz met privately for half an hour and discussed the difficult situation faced by Iraq.

In a brief statement, the Vatican said the meeting allowed for an exchange of views on what it called the known danger of an armed intervention in Iraq. The statement said such an attack would add further serious suffering to a population already tried by long years of embargo.

The 82-year-old pope has made his opposition to a U.S.-led war against Iraq clear saying it would be a defeat for humanity. The Vatican has refused to accept the possible conflict as a just war. It believes that it could lead to the killing of many innocent civilians and an increase in acts of terrorism.

Mr. Aziz told the pope that the Iraqi government is willing to cooperate with U.N. weapons inspectors. Mr. Aziz says Iraq has no weapons of mass destruction and that U.N. inspectors will be able to prove this, if the United States allows them to complete their work.

Mr. Aziz is a member of the Chaldean Christian church, a branch of Christianity that recognizes the authority of the Roman Catholic pope. He came to Rome at his own request for talks with the pope, who is actively seeking a peaceful solution to the crisis.

Mr. Aziz was also scheduled to meet with Italy's foreign minister, and to travel to Assisi to participate in a prayer for peace with Franciscan monks at the Basilica of St. Francis.