07/27/2006, 00.00
VATICAN – LEBANON
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Rome conference important, ceasefire in Lebanon "necessary", says Mgr Lajolo

The Holy See insists on demanding an immediate cessation of hostilities. It does never the less view positively the call for an international force, the committment to humanitarian aid and the will to protect Lebanon's sovereignty.

Vatican City (AsiaNews) – Whilst understanding the disappointment of those who expected the Rome Conference to call for an immediate ceasefire in Lebnaon, which the Holy See views as "possible" and "therefore necessary", the Vatican believes that that it did none the less achieve some positive results, this according to Mgr Giovanni Lajolo, Secretary for Relations with States. They are: the international community's awareness of the gravity of the situation in Lebanon, the call for an international force, the committment to humanitarian aid and the will to protect Lebanon's sovereignty.

In an interview with Vatican Radio released by the Vatican Press Office, Mgr Lajolo described as "positive" the speed with which the Italian government convened the conference and the fact that "it focused its attention on the most urgent needs of the present time".

Referring indirectly to the positions of Israel and the United States, the secretary said that the conditions that would prevent the truce from being violated again "can and must be created with means other than the killing of innocent people".

Another troubling issue, said the archbishop, was the fact that the conference limited itself "to inviting Israel to exercise the greatest restraint. By its nature, this call has a certain inevitable ambiguity, whilst respect for the innocent civilian population is a precise and binding duty."

"We had the impression of a step forward," Card Secretary of State Angelo Sodano told Italian daily Il Corriere della Sera. "Of course, many will be disappointed since we did not get an immediate ceasefire as many had wanted. On this issue, the Holy See was also expecting more".

"The expectations of the public were certainly high," noted Mgr Lajolo, "but for the well-informed who understand the difficulties, it could perhaps be said that the results were significant." The secretary for Relations with States went on to enumerate some of these results.

1. "The fact that countries from various parts of the world, from Canada to Russia, came together in an awareness of the gravity of what is happening in Lebanon, reaffirming the need for the country to regain full sovereignty as soon as possible," and that "they made a commitment to help her."

2. "The request to form an international force under the United Nations, to support the regular Lebanese army in security matters."

3. "The commitment to offer immediate humanitarian aid to the people of Lebanon and the guarantee of support in rebuilding by calling a conference of donor States." Many participants to the conference announced in fact their intention to provide important financial aid even though what has been committed so far remains inadequate.

4. The participants' commitment "to remain in constant contact concerning further developments in the intervention of the international community in Lebanon" is a positive step.

For its part, the Holy See remains in favor of an immediate cessation of hostilities. The problems on the table are many and extremely complex, and precisely for that reason cannot all be dealt with together. While bearing in mind the general picture and the overall solution to be achieved, the problems must be resolved 'per partes,' beginning with those that are immediately resolvable. The position of those who maintain that conditions must first be created so that any truce is not once again violated is only apparently one of realism, because those conditions can and must be created with means other than the killing of innocent people."

"The Pope," Mgr Lajolo said, "is close to those peoples, victims of contrasts and of a conflict foreign to them. Benedict XVI prays, and with him the entire Church, for the day of peace to come today and not tomorrow. He prays to God and appeals to political leaders. The Pope weeps with every mother weeping for her children, with all those weeping for their loved ones. An immediate suspension of hostilities is possible, and therefore necessary." (FP)

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