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Tuesday, 6 August, 2002, 14:31 GMT 15:31 UK
Clergy protest against war on Iraq
Dr Rowan Williams
Dr Williams is outspoken against war on Iraq
The next Archbishop of Canterbury is among 2,500 signatories of a Christian petition delivered to Downing Street opposing military action against Iraq.

The declaration drawn up by the Christian peace group Pax Christi calls any attack on Iraq "immoral and illegal".

It is signed by members of a variety of religious groups and several Anglican and Roman Catholic bishops, including Dr Rowan Williams, who will take over the Church of England's top job in October.

Their protest is the latest in a rising tide of criticism as speculation mounts that the US is planning to strike Iraq, a strike the UK is seen as likely to support.

Mounting pressure

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said such as assault would be "unwise" while German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder warned against "toying with war".

Meanwhile, pressure has been mounting at home on Prime Minister Tony Blair to recall Parliament.

One of Labour's most senior backbench members, Tam Dalyell, wrote to Mr Blair telling him he had a "moral obligation" to debate the issue.

On Monday, Downing Street moved to quash suggestions that the Royal Navy was already making preparations for war.


Pre-emptive war by one state against another is not permitted by the UN Charter

Pax Christi declaration

The denial was a response to reports that aircraft carrier Ark Royal was being deployed to the Mediterranean so it could quickly move to the Gulf.

Pax Christi opted to deliver its declaration to the prime minister on the anniversary of the first use of nuclear weapons at Hiroshima in 1945.

It states: "It's deplorable that the world's most powerful nations continue to regard war, and the threat of war, as an acceptable instrument of foreign policy."

Among the signatories was the Bishop of Chelmsford, Right Rev John Perry.

He urged the government to hold off taking any military action.

"It doesn't meet any of the criteria that, as a Christian leader, I would be looking for," Bishop Perry told BBC Radio 4's World At One.

"I don't think it meets any of the criteria for any pre-emptive military action at the moment."

'Moral duty'

Dr Tina Beattie, of Pax Christi who was presented the declaration at Downing Street, said there was a "growing number expressing disquiet" about the US's plans.

She said a war would have "devastating consequences" for people living in the Middle East and that it was the responsibility of Christians to speak out.

"When our elected leaders are considering fighting a war in our name, funded by our taxes, there is no morally neutral position," said Dr Beattie.

Among the others who added their names are Anglican Bishops John Gladwin and Peter Price and Roman Catholic Bishops Malcolm McMahon, Thomas McMahon and Edwin Regan.


Talking PointTALKING POINT
Iraq protest
Should the clergy get involved in foreign policy?
See also:

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