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Jackson wants truce to get aid to Iraqis

Iraqi Christian bishop appeals for cease-fire

Jackson and Annan
Jackson meets with U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan at the United Nations Thursday.

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UNITED NATIONS (CNN) -- The Rev. Jesse Jackson called Thursday for a truce to allow humanitarian aid to be delivered to Iraq and asked for permission from both U.S. and Iraq officials to allow religious leaders to visit with prisoners of war.

Jackson made his appeal after meeting with U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan at U.N. headquarters in New York.

"Perhaps there could be the Olympic Truce, where at least both sides agree to stop the shooting to allow food and medicine to get in and water can be turned back on," Jackson said.

U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. John Negroponte rejected the notion of a truce.

"The most effective way to ensure the delivery of humanitarian supplies will be as the allied forces move forward, secure their objectives, secure the cities, restore calm, security and peace to the various parts of the Iraqi nation," Negroponte said.

"I think then the conditions will be created for the most expeditious and effective delivery of humanitarian supplies."

On the issue of visits with prisoners of war held by Iraq and the United States, Jackson said he wants "to be convinced that they are alive and well."

"There are a group of religious leaders willing to take such a mission, but there are tremendous difficulties now," Jackson said.

Along with securing permission to fly into Iraqi airspace, the group would need an insured plane, he said.

During the Kosovo conflict in 1999, Jackson and a delegation of religious leaders traveled to Yugoslavia and won the release of three U.S. POWs held by Serbia.

In Baghdad, Monsignor Shlemon Warduni, the Chaldean Christian auxiliary bishop of the city, made a telephone appeal Thursday for an end to the fighting.

"We, heads of the Christian Churches in Iraq, appeal to those responsible to listen the voice of God, to stop this aggression on the Iraqi people, to stop dropping bombs and start dialogue, to be able to judge reasonably and find ways to guarantee an immediate end to the war and a lasting peace," he said.

"We heads of the Christian Churches in Iraq, together with our Muslim brothers, thank those who work to stop the aggression against us, especially Pope John Paul II. We ask and pray to end this unjust aggression."

The appeal was phoned to Telepace, a television and radio station owned by the Catholic Diocese of Chiavari, Italy, which passed the text on to the Rome-based Missionary Service News Agency, MISNA.

Though predominantly Muslim, Iraq is a country with a distinct Christian presence, which historically has been tolerated. The deputy prime minister, Tariq Aziz, is a Christian and had an audience with the pope before the war began.


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