11/05/2013, 00.00
VATICAN - SYRIA

Mortar fire hits Nunciature in Damascus, no casualties

The front of the building, part of the roof and the eaves on the third floor were hit, including the sleeping quarters. The nuncio is working to ensure the success of the peace conference. The pontifical legation will continue to work and does not plan to shut down or move.

Damascus (AsiaNews) - A mortar round hit the Vatican Nunciature building this morning in Damascus. The bomb was aimed at the third floor, where the sleeping quarters of the Nuncio Mgr Mario Zenari, his secretary Fr Giorgio, and the sisters working at the residence are located.

"Thank God no one was hit," Fr Giorgio told AsiaNews. The mortar round destroyed part of the roof, including the eaves of the building and part of the facade.

Archbishop Zenari is one of the few diplomats who never left his post in the past two years of civil war. He continues, along with the pope, to push the international community for a peace conference on Syria, without any veto on participants.

The Syrian government and opponents disagree on the ground rules for the conference set for late November.

Rebels will participate only if Bashar Assad leaves power and threaten anyone who dares to take part. The Syrian regime said that it would not participate with such a pre-condition.

UN and Arab League envoy Lahdar Brahimi, who is tasked with preparing the peace conference, met with US and Russian representatives in Geneva in order to lay the grounds for the event.

The Nunciature has not said anything as to who might be behind the attack. The fact that it was a single salvo leads to believe that the building was targeted.

After the explosion, firefighters, emergency crews and police came to the Vatican legation building. The Syrian President sent a message of solidarity.

Despite the attack, the Nunciature is not planning to close or move its staff. "Papal legations are never closed," Fr Giorgio said. "We shall only take a few precautions."

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