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Iraq's Deputy PM Aziz Calls for Peace - 2003-02-15

Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz called for peace in Assisi, Italy on Saturday. He took part in prayers at St. Francis Basilica there. Mr. Aziz has been meeting with Italian officials and the pope, seeking support against a possible U.S. led war in Iraq.

The Iraqi deputy prime minister arrived at St. Francis Basilica in Assisi Saturday morning to pray for peace.

Speaking outside the basilica, he said, "The people of Iraq want peace. And millions of people around the world are demonstrating for peace, so let us all work for peace and resist the war and the intentions of aggression."

A spokesman for the Franciscan monks said Mr. Aziz's visit to the tomb of St. Francis was important because the world needs images of peace to conquer the images of war.

Mr. Aziz, who is a Chaldean Christian, took part in two symbolic gestures in the basilica. He held an oil peace lamp over the tomb of St. Francis and was shown an ivory horn, which was presented, to the saint in the 13th century. Fransciscan monks say the horn is a symbol of friendship between peoples.

The Iraqi official has been in Italy since Thursday trying to generate opposition against a possible U.S. led war against Iraq. On Friday he met Pope John Paul II at the Vatican and told him Baghdad is willing to further cooperate with U.N. weapons inspectors.

Mr. Aziz has said that a war against his country is immoral and unjustified.

Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of demonstrators gathered in the Italian capital, Rome, to protest against a possible war. Mr. Aziz said, "this is a day people will show the conscience of mankind against crime and aggression."