April 16, 2006

Pope calls for nuclear diplomacy

By Philip Pullella

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope Benedict, in his first Easter
message, called on Sunday for an "honorable solution" to the
nuclear standoff with Iran, a truly independent Palestinian
state, and global cooperation to combat terrorism.

The German Pope, speaking on his 79th birthday, made his
appeal for world peace in his Easter "Urbi et Orbi" (to the
city and the world) message to some 100,000 people as he
concluded the first Easter season of his pontificate.

The Pope, who marks the first anniversary of his election
on Wednesday, led a joyful Easter mass in a sunny St Peter's
Square on the most important day of the Christian liturgical
calendar, when the faithful celebrate Christ's resurrection
from the dead.

In the speech, televised to millions of viewers in more
than 65 countries at the end of Easter Sunday mass in the
square, the head of the Roman Catholic Church listed his
worries about a world he said was living through "uncertainty
and anxiety" and oppressed by widespread suffering.

"Concerning the international crises linked to nuclear
power, may an honorable solution be found for all parties,
through serious and honest negotiations ... " he said in a
clear reference to Iran, which announced last week it had
become a nuclear power by enriching uranium.

The United States wants targeted sanctions on Iran that
include a freeze on assets and visa restrictions.

The Pope read the speech, and delivered brief Easter
greetings in 62 languages including Hebrew and Arabic, from the
same central balcony of St Peter's Basilica where he appeared
to the world for the first time as pontiff after his election.

The crowd in the square, which was decked out with tens of
thousands of flowers donated by the Netherlands, interrupted
his address with applause several times when he called for

In another part of the speech, the Pope defended Israel's
right to exist, in what appeared to be an indirect criticism of
statements by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that the
Jewish state should be eliminated.


But he also called firmly for the establishment of a
Palestinian state.

"May the international community, which re-affirms Israel's
just right to exist in peace, assist the Palestinian people to
overcome the precarious conditions in which they live and to
build their future, moving toward the constitution of a state
that is truly their own," he said in the part of his address
dedicated to peace in the Middle East.

In other parts of the "Urbi et Orbi" address, the Pope
expressed his concern over terrorism, as he has already done
several times since his election on April 19, 2005 to succeed
the late Pope John Paul.

"May the leaders of nations and of international
organizations be strengthened in their will to achieve peaceful
coexistence among different races, cultures and religions, in
order to remove the threat of terrorism," he said.

Mentioning Iraq, he prayed "may peace finally prevail over
the tragic violence that continues mercilessly to claim

The Pope also prayed that the spirit of the risen Christ
bring relief and security to Africa, particularly the people of
Darfur in western Sudan, who he said were "living in a dramatic
humanitarian situation that is no longer sustainable."

Chad broke diplomatic ties with neighboring Sudan on Friday
and warned that it might stop sheltering thousands of Sudanese
refugees who have crossed the border to escape an ethnic
conflict in the Darfur region.

This is the first Easter for the 1.1 billion member Roman
Catholic Church since the death of Pope John Paul, who was in
his final days a year ago and was only able to make brief
appearances in the week between Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday.

John Paul died on April 2, a week after Easter.