ROME, Vatican City, Jan. 13 (UPI) -- Pope John Paul II Monday argued forcibly against war in Iraq except as "the very last option" and said such a conflict would be "a defeat for humanity."
In his annual New Year's address to diplomats accredited to the Holy See, the pope said, "One cannot resort to war, even when the intention is to ensure the common good, if not as the very last option, and in accordance with very strict conditions, and taking into account the consequences to the civilian population both during and after the military operation."
The pope said the new millennium had begun with the world in a precarious state, and he was impressed by "the fear that lies in the hearts of our contemporaries."
He listed world crises including, "terrorism that can strike anywhere at any time, the unresolved problem of the Middle East, including the Holy Land and Iraq, the tremors that disrupt South America, particularly Argentina, Colombia and Venezuela, the conflicts that prevent many African states from concentrating on their efforts on their development, the diseases that spread contagion and death, and the grave problem of famine, especially in Africa."
The speech was the pontiff's first direct reference to the Iraq situation, and his strongest appeal yet not to rush into conflict. Iraq's population was "already exhausted by 12 years of (U.N.-mandated) embargo," he said.
John Paul went on, "War is never inevitable. ... International law, honest dialogue, solidarity between states, and the noble efforts of diplomacy are worthy means of resolving differences between states."