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Church accuses Blair of 'cruel thirst for vengeance'

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    Church accuses Blair of cruel thirst for vengeance By Jonathan Petre, Religious Affairs Correspondent (Filed: 24/03/2002)
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 25, 2002
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      Church accuses Blair of 'cruel thirst for vengeance'
      By Jonathan Petre, Religious Affairs Correspondent
      (Filed: 24/03/2002)

      http://news.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2002/03/24/nirq24.xml&sSheet=/portal/2002/03/23/ixport.html

      THE Church of England is on a collision course with the Government over
      Iraq by producing a report for bishops which argues that an attack on
      Saddam Hussein would be immoral and seen as the "cruel thirst for
      vengeance".

      The report, by the Church's Board for Social Responsibility, says that it
      would be difficult to see how Western military action in Iraq could meet
      the criteria of being a just war.

      Instead, in an implicit criticism of the hardening stance being taken by
      Tony Blair, the briefing paper says that calls for such action merely
      "reflect the priorities of American foreign policy".

      It adds that the Church would also have "grave concerns" about inter-faith
      relations in Britain in the wake of an attack on another Muslim country
      such as Iraq.

      The paper follows Wednesday's warning by Geoff Hoon, the Defence
      Secretary, that Britain would be ready to launch a nuclear strike against
      states such as Iraq if they used weapons of mass destruction against
      British forces.

      His words came as officials in Washington and London privately predicted
      that military action to topple Saddam was likely at the end of the year.

      Although Mr Hoon denied that a decision had been taken on such action, his
      comments about nuclear arms fuelled beliefs that preparations were being
      considered.

      The private paper by the Church's board, chaired by the Bishop of
      Southwark, the Rt Rev Tom Butler, is not policy but a strong indication of
      Church thinking. It says that, for a war to be just, it has to have
      "proper authority and right intent".

      It continues: "It is difficult to see how either of these have been met in
      the case of Iraq." No explicit UN resolution existed that would legitimise
      military action, and it was hard to see, given the lack of international
      consensus, how this could be achieved.

      Although Mr Blair originally played down talk of action against Iraq
      because Saddam was not linked to the September 11 attacks, ministers have
      since said that such an operation would be justified because Iraq is in
      breach of UN resolutions and Gulf war ceasefire agreements.

      The paper says: "Although it is important not to understate the potential
      threat posed by Iraq, no convincing evidence has been presented to support
      the argument that Iraq is rebuilding its WMD [weapons of mass destruction]
      programme or that Iraq poses an immediate threat to regional and
      international security.

      "Instead, the arguments put forward in favour of action reflect the
      priorities of American foreign policy. This would be difficult to square
      with the Government's interpretation of the legal position. Any such
      attack could be perceived as the `cruel thirst for vengeance'.

      "An attack on another Muslim country - particularly one with no proven
      link to the September 11 atrocities - would be taken by many as evidence
      of an in-built hostility to the Islamic world. . . The consequence for
      inter-faith relations of an attack on Iraq must therefore be of grave
      concern."

      The paper was dismissed by Ann Widdecombe, the former Tory minister. "If
      Saddam is stockpiling weapons of mass destruction, it is not vengeance but
      self-defence to stop him," she said.

      "I don't know where the Church gets its information that he isn't
      stockpiling such weapons. Perhaps they get secret intelligence reports
      every day?"



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