Pope's mediation runs into more difficulties
A NEW crisis this week upset Vatican Middle East peace initiatives which include an all-party conference announced unofficially two weeks ago.
Such were Pope John Paul H's "fears" for events in the Holy Land and Lebanon that he agreed to meet privately with two leading members of the Arab League, reports said.
They were Saud Al-Faisal, Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister, and his Algerian counterpart, Ahmed Ghozali, both on the League's High Commission.
The talks, however, are said to have taken a surprise turn when the ministers voiced the concern of Lebanon's Arab community that current Catholic mediation in the I5-year conflict could "give the impression" of Vatican support for the unpopular warmonger, General Michel Aoun, leader of one of Beirut's combatant Christian factions. The ministers asked the Pope to "verify" mediation approaches that some Christian factions could "instrumentalise", it was reported in Rome.
The Pope has already launched numerous pleas to warring Christian groups for an end to the fighting. The most recent appeal was on, May 25 and was followed by a truce.
At the meeting last week, John Paul reiterated his desire to visit Lebanon and renewed his plea for "peace and justice in full respect of the rights of every person and every community" in the Middle East.
The Arab foreign ministers replied by stressing the "importance" of Vatican initiatives as long as church action did not imply modifications of the Arab League's 1989 Taif Accords for National Reconciliation, directed at striking a new balance between Lebanese opposing factions.
Their conditional approval of Vatican peace initiatives is now thought likely to slow down the recently accelerated Holy See intervention for Middle East reconciliation, also in the light of the United States' decision last week to suspend dialogue with the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO).
Earlier this month, reports in Rome had suggested that Holy See diplomacy was stepping up its action for the Middle East. The most ambitious initiative is said to be the organisation of a peace conference, with Arab approval but not yet sanctioned by the Israeli government in Jerusalem.
The Apostolic Nuncio in Beirut, Archbishop Pablo Puente, continues to pursue the so-called "Pax Vaticana" peace plan.