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Sunday, 24 March, 2002, 00:34 GMT
Bishops urged to debate Iraq action
Saddam Hussein
Some fear Saddam is developing weapons of mass destruction
Church of England bishops are being given guidance to decide whether military action against Iraq is justified or just "a cruel thirst for vengeance."

A briefing paper circulated to the bishops sets out arguments surrounding action against Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, the Sunday Telegraph reports.

A spokesman for the Church of England said the briefing did not represent Church policy but was merely a guide for bishops to make up their own minds.

There is mounting speculation that America is preparing to target Saddam Hussein's regime as phase two of the war on terror and the government has indicated Britain would back such action if the "conditions were right."

'No UN resolution'

The document, drawn up by the Church's Board for Social Responsibility, says that for a war to be just, it has to have "proper authority" and "right intent."

"It is difficult to see how either of these have been met in the case of Iraq," the paper says.

"No explicit UN Security Council resolution currently exists that would legitimate military action and it is difficult given the lack of international consensus to see how this could be achieved."


It is intended to be used as a resource to enable Christians to think through difficult moral issues

Church spokesman
The briefing paper argues that while it is important not to underestimate the potential threat Iraq poses, no convincing evidence has been presented to prove that Saddam is rebuilding his weapons of mass destruction programme.

It is also hard to argue that Iraq poses a threat to regional or international security, the document continues.

"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."

Bishops 'must decide'

Any attack on Iraq could be perceived as a "cruel thirst for vengeance" - not the Church's own expression but a quote taken from James Turner Johnson's book, Morality and Contemporary Warfare.

The consequences for inter-faith relations of action against Baghdad "must therefore be of grave concern."

A Church spokesman said: "We are asking people to use the analyses as a means of making up their minds about the serious and important issues of the threat of military action against Iraq.

"It is intended to be used as a resource to enable Christians to think through difficult moral issues for themselves," he said.

"It is proposing an argument which bishops can agree or disagree with."

See also:

25 Feb 02 | Middle East
Annan to tackle Iraq over arms
24 Feb 02 | Middle East
Blair and Bush 'to discuss Iraq action'
23 Feb 02 | Middle East
Saddam scorns Bush 'baby talk'
24 Mar 02 | UK Politics
Straw bids to ease Iraq fears
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