Pope appeals for truce in Libya

Pope Benedict

Pope Benedict

Pope Benedict has repeated his growing concern for the safety of civilians in Libya, and other countries in the Middle East. He urged  the international community to suspend military action and seek  to negotiate a peaceful solution to the crisis.

Speaking to pilgrims in St Peter's Square yesterday before the Angelus, the Holy Father said the news coming from Libya was  "ever more dramatic". He said: "My trepidation for the safety of the civil population grows as does my apprehension for the developments of the situation, which is now marked by the use of arms."

Street protests began in Libya last month - echoing those in Tunisia, Egypt and other countries in the region. Crowds began calling for the resignation of Colonel Gaddaffi who has been in power for over 42 years. Armed clashes began with government troops controlling Tripoli, while the rebels set up a base in Benghazi.

Following reports of 'massacres' of the protestors and bombings of the rebel forces by Gaddafi, the UN Security Council passed Resolution 1973 authorising a 'no-fly zone'. The Resolution also permits the use of 'all means necessary' for the protection of Libyan civilians. As a result there have been a number of targetted air raids on military installations. Gaddaffi's forces claim innocent civilians have been killed and injured in these attacks.

Pope Benedict told pilgrims: "In moments of great tension there is a greater urgency to use every possible means of diplomatic action, and to support even the weakest signs of openness and desire for reconciliation among all the parties involved, in the pursuit of peaceful and lasting solutions."

He added: "As I lift up my prayer to the Lord for a return to concord in Libya and the whole region of North Africa, I make a concerned appeal to international organizations and to political and military leaders for the immediate launching of dialogue and a suspension of the use of weapons."

Benedict XVI also voiced his concern over an increase in violence in other countries in the Middle East, including Yemen, Jordan, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, Syria and Bahrain.

He said: "I finally address the authorities and citizens of the Middle East, where in recent days various episodes of violence have sprung up, asking that there too, the way of dialogue and reconciliation be privileged in the pursuit of just and fraternal coexistence."

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