08/31/2022, 12.06
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Card. Sako: Early elections the only way to resolve the Iraqi crisis

by Dario Salvi

In Rome for the cardinals' meeting with the pope, the prelate followed the violence of recent days with "deep concern". At the audience, the pontiff also called for "dialogue and fraternity" for the country and its people. President Saleh also calls for a return to the polls.



Rome (AsiaNews) - The only way out of a situation of political stalemate and institutional paralysis is to give the people back their say and "call new elections", as the Iraqi president himself recently stressed. 

Speaking to AsiaNews at the end of the two days of meetings and work with Pope Francis, with the participation in the first mass of his new brother cardinals celebrated yesterday, the Patriarch of Baghdad Card. Louis Raphael Sako, did not hide his "deep concern" for the violence that has bloodied Iraq. 

The Pontiff also spoke about the Arab country this morning at the Wednesday audience. He said he was following "with concern the violent events that have occurred in Baghdad in recent days: we pray to God to give peace to the Iraqi people".

"Last year," the Pope continued, recalling his apostolic journey in March 2021, "I had the joy of visiting Baghdad and I felt at first hand the great desire for normality and peaceful coexistence among the different religious communities that compose it." He conlcuded: "Dialogue and fraternity, are the priority path to face the current difficulties and reach this goal'.

The toll of the clashes between supporters of Shiite leader Moqtada al-Sadr and the Security Forces (backed by pro-Iranian movements) is at least 30 dead and almost 800 wounded. For hours, it was feared that the situation could degenerate into a full-blown civil war, which was averted thanks to an appeal by al-Sadr himself, who called on the demonstrators to retreat in order to avert further 'Iraqi bloodshed'. 

Demonstrators and supporters of the Shiite leader, a figure who has gained more and more power and following in recent years, clamoured for the dissolution of Parliament and new elections.

This message eas echoed a few hours later by Iraqi President Barham Saleh, who sees the ballot box as the only way to resolve the crisis that has been paralysing the nation for almost a year.

"Calling new early elections in accordance with the national consensus," the head of state stressed, "is a way out of the crisis" and is a factor of "political and social stability" responding to the "aspirations of the Iraqi people". The interim Iraqi Prime Minister, Sunni Mustafa al-Kadhimi, wished to thank al-Sadr for his call for calm and moderation. 

Commenting on the violence, Patriarch Sako confirmed that "people were very afraid" especially of a further uncontrolled drift. "The Shiite leader," the cardinal added, "was right to condemn the violence and to ask his people to leave the Green Zone [of Baghdad]. We must all make sacrifices and renunciations for Iraq and its people, all together we must find a peaceful solution for the country'. 

For the Chaldean primate, the extent of the clashes was an element of "surprise" for al-Sadr himself and it cannot be ruled out that "it was infiltrators at the demonstrations" that provoked the clash and led to the violent drift.

Moreover, he continues, the Shiite leader "has always spoken of peaceful demonstrations" and when faced with escalation has called for a step backwards. 'And for this,' he emphasises, 'I thank him, because he has made a statement and a courageous move. We too as a Church are for dialogue, for peace and progress, which are the only way out of the crisis because the terrible alternative is civil war'. "I heard President Saleh's statement," Card. Sako - and I agree with him: the only way is to vote."

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