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Pope criticises US for shunning Iraq diplomacy
Telegraph (UK)
By Malcolm Moore in New York
April 21, 2008

In a carefully-worded speech at the United Nations, Benedict underlined the need for diplomacy.

"Multilateral consensus continues to be in crisis because it is still subordinated to the decisions of a few, whereas the world's problems call for interventions in the form of collective action," he said, adding that international rules must be "binding".

Although he did not mention the war in Iraq directly, his speech reminded the audience of the decision by the US and the United Kingdom to bypass the UN before going to war in Iraq in 2003.

Kofi Annan, the former secretary general of the UN, branded the war "illegal" because the US failed to get a resolution from the UN and no multi-lateral authorisation was given by the UN Security Council.

"There have been painful lessons for the US, the UN and other member states. I think in the end everybody's concluded it's best to work together with our allies and through the UN," Mr Annan noted.

Archbishop Celestino Migliore, the Vatican representative at the UN, said Benedict wanted to attack "the false notion that might makes right".

Several UN members have complained about the excessive power of large countries such as the United States in the UN Security Council.

The Vatican strongly opposed the war in Iraq, and Benedict said any intervention in another country "should never be interpreted as an unwarranted imposition or a limitation of sovereignty."

He called instead for "a deeper search for ways of managing conflicts by exploring every possible diplomatic avenue, and giving attention and encouragement to even the faintest sign of dialogue or desire for reconciliation."

Gordon Brown has also made clear that he wants the UN to become more effective in preventing and resolving conflicts.

Benedict became only the third pope to address the general assembly of representatives from 192 countries. Hundreds of people gathered in the square outside the UN, one with a banner saying: "You Rock!"

"My presence is a sign of esteem for the United Nations. I promise you the support of my prayers as you pursue your noble task," he said, drawing comparisons between the UN and the Holy See.

He called upon the international to intervene in cases where countries are unable to protect their people from "grave and sustained violations of human rights". He added: "It is indifference or non-intervention which causes the real harm".

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