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Last Updated: Thursday, 4 November, 2004, 13:08 GMT
Iraq calls on 'spectators' to act
Iraqi interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi (left) meets Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi
Berlusconi confirmed Italy's commitment to keep troops in Iraq
The interim Iraqi Prime Minister, Iyad Allawi, has urged what he called spectator countries to get involved in the rebuilding of Iraq.

Mr Allawi made the comments after a meeting with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi in Rome.

Mr Berlusconi confirmed Italy's commitment to keep its 3,000 troops in Iraq as long as requested.

Mr Allawi, who is beginning a European tour, met Pope John Paul II at the Vatican later on Thursday.

"To the countries which up to now have been spectators, I turn to them and ask for their help to create a better Iraq in the future," Mr Allawi said.

Christian targets

Mr Allawi had a private audience with the ailing Pope, a staunch opponent of the war in Iraq.

In a statement read out by an aide, the pontiff assured Mr Allawi of his closeness to the people of Iraq and "all the victims of terrorism and wanton violence".

The Vatican has expressed concern at recent reports of the targeting of churches by Islamic militants in Baghdad.

Christians make up 3% of Iraq's population.

Thousands have left country since the start of the war, and more are thought to be preparing to do so.

On Friday, Mr Allawi will attend the European Union summit in Brussels, and meet Nato officials.

EU leaders are expected to offer more aid for the reconstruction of Iraq.

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