U.S. Envoy Discusses Bush's June Meeting With Pope

Says President Eager to Talk With John Paul II

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ROME, MAY 14, 2004 (Zenit.org).- At his upcoming papal meeting, President George Bush will condemn the torture of Iraqi prisoners by American soldiers and make it clear the offenders are few, a U.S. ambassador said.



In an interview today with the newspaper Il Corriere della Sera, the U.S. ambassador to the Holy See, Jim Nicholson, commented on the contents of Bush's meeting with John Paul II scheduled for June 4.

Nicholson confirmed the president's eagerness to meet with the Holy Father, to the point of rescheduling his trip to Rome to arrive at night, before the Pope's trip to Switzerland.

"Bush very much wants to meet [the Pope] because he feels the need to talk about some crucial issues for the future of the world," the ambassador said. Among these issues are the "Middle East, Iraq and terrorism," he added.

The U.S. president will tell the Pope that he is "profoundly distressed by all that has happened" in regard to the torture of Iraqi prisoners, Nicholson said.

"But he will also say that it was a small minority of the 200,000 military men who have been in Iraq; the great majority has behaved in an exemplary way," the envoy said. "Those who have committed abuses do not represent the American people."

Nicholson said: "The United States is in agreement with the handing over of power from the U.N. to the Iraqis. But it is still not clear how this can take place. There is only a date, June 30, but for the time being there is no new United Nations resolution."

"It is the Iraqi people themselves who are asking us to stay; we have brought water, electricity, schools, hospitals," the ambassador said. "It is an improvement that is not read in the newspapers."

"We are in favor of a new Constitution, of the return of power to the Iraqis. To do this, we cannot abandon the terrain," he indicated.

Bush will also speak with the Pope about the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, the ambassador said.

"The 'road map' will be relaunched," he said. "We are firmly convinced that it is necessary to put an end to the conflict through the creation of an autonomous Palestinian state. And on this point, we are in sync with the Church."