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The BBC's Alix Kroeger
"There's no immediate prospect that sanctions will be lifted"
 real 28k

Friday, 10 December, 1999, 12:47 GMT
Pope cancels Iraq trip

The Pope wanted to visit Abraham's birthplace


Pope John Paul II has called off a planned visit to Iraq as part of his millennium tour of the Holy Land.

Baghdad reportedly told the Vatican it could not organise the trip because of the United Nations embargo and the air exclusion zone over part of the country.

The Pope had been keen to visit the ancient Iraqi city of Ur, believed to be the birthplace of Abraham.

No date had been set for the trip, but the local church was expecting the Pope to go there in January.

An advance team from the Vatican travelled to Baghdad last month for consultations.

Controversy

Britain and the United States had strongly opposed the proposal for the Pope to visit Iraq, arguing that it would be a propaganda coup for Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

Since the 1991 Gulf War, allied warplanes have been patrolling ''no-fly zones'' in northern and southern Iraq. The country is also under UN sanctions for its invasion of Kuwait.

A Vatican statement said it had been informed by the Iraqi authorities that these "abnormal conditions" prevented them from organising a visit to Ur in the south of the country.

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See also:
17 Nov 99 |  Middle East
Pope's Holy Land trip confirmed
02 Sep 99 |  Middle East
Pope warned against Iraq visit
28 Aug 99 |  Middle East
US attacks Pope's Iraq trip

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