Archbishop attacks Iraq invasion
Dr Rowan Williams, who is expected to be named as the next Archbishop of Canterbury within weeks, yesterday stepped up his criticism of the West's war on terrorism by denouncing plans to attack Iraq as "immoral and illegal".
In a declaration signed by other peace campaigners, Dr Williams, the Archbishop of Wales, deplored any action which took innocent lives as fighting "terror with terror".
He added that an assault on Iraq could never be justified unless it had invaded another country first, and criticised the world's "most powerful nations" for threatening war.
The intervention, which follows his description in January of the Afghanistan conflict as "morally tainted" and "embarrassing", will alarm Downing Street, which is already concerned about Cabinet splits over the issue.
The comments contrast with the cautious tone adopted by the present Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr George Carey, and they are a reminder that Dr Williams could prove a highly outspoken successor.
But they are unlikely to prompt a rethink by Tony Blair, who has made clear that he intends to appoint Dr Williams to Canterbury.
The latest views of Dr Williams, 52, the leading liberal contender for the job, are contained in a declaration drawn up by the Christian pressure group Pax Christi, published today in The Tablet, the Roman Catholic weekly.
Other signatories include the Church of England Bishop of Chelmsford, the Rt Rev John Perry, and the Catholic Bishop of Brentwood, the Rt Rev Thomas McMahon.
The declaration, which will be presented to Downing Street next month, comes as military plans to overthrow Saddam are finalised by US central command. A full-scale invasion, possibly involving British forces, could take place by the end of the year.
It said: "We deplore any military action that regards the deaths of innocent men, women and children as a price worth paying in fighting terrorists, since this is to fight terror with terror."
The declaration called on Iraq to allow UN inspectors to check whether it had weapons of mass destruction, but said that America and Britain should also do the same.
"It is our considered view that an attack on Iraq would be both immoral and illegal, and that eradicating the dangers posed by malevolent dictators and terrorists can be achieved only by tackling the root causes of the disputes.
"It is deplorable that the world's most powerful nations continue to regard war and the threat of war as an acceptable instrument of foreign policy, in violation of both the United Nations and Christian moral teaching."
Dr Williams was unavailable for comment yesterday.
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