BY STAFF REPORTER
THE WIFE of Tariq Aziz, the former deputy prime minister in Iraq, has appealed to Pope John Paul II to help secure her husband's release from American custody.
Aziz, a Chaldean Catholic and the most senior Christian in Saddam Hussein's regime, surrendered to occupying forces in April. He is being held in Iraq.
Violet Aziz, the wife of Saddam's deputy prime minister, said her husband was just a state employee loyal to his country and she appealed for his release.
In an interview with the Rome newspaper La Repubblica, she said he was innocent of any crime. Her husband expected to be interviewed for a few days and then released she said.
Mrs Aziz has not been allowed to see or speak with her husband. She said she was deeply concerned for his health and had written to the Pontiff asking for help.
"I did not do this because Tariq is a Christian but because the Pope knows him and knows he is a man of peace and does not deserve to be in prison.
"I have not yet had an answer from the Pontiff, but I hope he has not forgotten us," she said. According to La Repubblica, a contact close to the Vatican denied that a written appeal from Mrs Aziz had been received.
The contact said the Vatican could make a humanitarian appeal through diplomatic sources, but such a step had not yet been taken.
Mrs Aziz said her husband, who met privately with John Paul II before the outbreak of hostilities, had tried his best to avoid the conflict.
She said he was against Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in 1990 and the resulting Persian Gulf War of 1991, and that his opposition led Saddam to remove him as foreign minister.
She said: "He was the only voice of reason in Iraq, but no one listened to him."