Iran Nuclear NewsPope says Iran should be cooperative

Pope says Iran should be cooperative

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AP: Pope Benedict XVI said Monday that Iran should cooperate with the international community to ease concerns over its nuclear ambitions, and North Korea should avoid any action that could hurt talks to resolve its atomic crisis. Associated Press

By FRANCES D’EMILIO

Associated Press Writer

VATICAN CITY (AP) – Pope Benedict XVI said Monday that Iran should cooperate with the international community to ease concerns over its nuclear ambitions, and North Korea should avoid any action that could hurt talks to resolve its atomic crisis.

In the Vatican’s traditional New Year review of the world’s hot spots, Benedict expressed hope that leaders would take advantage of progress in Israeli-Palestinian relations to forge a negotiated peace.

Benedict also used the annual speech to diplomats accredited to the Holy See to draw attention to Latin America, which he will visit next spring when he makes a pilgrimage to Brazil. He urged nations to open up to Cuba and restore security in Colombia, including an end to frequent kidnappings there.

While lamenting grim situations in much of the world, the pontiff said there were signs of hope from the Middle East.

“I renew my urgent appeal to all parties involved in the complex political chessboard of the region, hoping for a consolidation of the positive signs noted in recent weeks between Israelis and Palestinians,” the pontiff said.

“A global approach is needed, which excludes no one from the search for a negotiated settlement, taking into account the legitimate aspirations of the different peoples involved,” Benedict said.

“In particular, the Lebanese have a right to see the integrity and sovereignty of their country respected; the Israelis have a right to live in peace in their state; the Palestinians have a right to a free and sovereign homeland.”

Trust in the region will also improve, Benedict said, if “a country like Iran, especially in relation to its nuclear program, agrees to give a satisfactory response to the legitimate concerns of the international community.”

That “would surely help to stabilize the whole region, especially Iraq, putting an end to the appalling violence which disfigures that country with bloodshed,” the pontiff added.

He also lamented that “dangerous sources of tension are lurking in the Korean Peninsula.”

“The goal of reconciling the Korean people and maintaining the peninsula as a nuclear-free zone … must be pursued within the context of negotiations,” and any success from the talks must not be linked to humanitarian aid for needy North Koreans, the pontiff said. The six-party nuclear talks involve China, Japan, the two Koreas, Russia and the United States.

North Korea’s nuclear test on Oct. 9 triggered alarm around the world and prompted the U.N. Security Council to adopt sanctions against the Communist regime.

Benedict said North Korea should “avoid gestures that could compromise” the talks, a possible reference to any future test explosion.

Under Benedict’s predecessor, John Paul II, the Holy See lobbied against economic sanctions as a weapon in political disputes, and Benedict in his speech quoted John Paul on Cuba in appealing to the world to open up to the communist island nation.

“Let Cuba open itself to the world and let the world open itself to Cuba,” Benedict said.

The pontiff, noting, that several Latin American countries held elections in 2006, said that “democracy is called to take into account the aspirations of its citizens as a whole, and to promote increasing respect for all the components of society” according to principles of solidarity and justice.

“Yet the practice of democracy must not be allowed to turn into the dictatorship of relativism” that goes against human dignity, Benedict said, without naming countries.

Among the Latin American countries holding elections last year were Venezuela and Bolivia, both of which have had tense relations with the United States.

Benedict noted that the Christian community is small in Asia, and he defended the “legitimate desire” of Christians there to live in a climate of religious freedom.

In countries like China they have suffered persecution, a cause of tension for the Vatican in its efforts to improve relations with Beijing.

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