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 CNS Story:

POPE-KING Aug-27-2013 (400 words) xxxi

Pope to meet Jordan's king, discuss ongoing strife in Middle East

By Cindy Wooden
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- As international leaders increasingly discussed the possibility of some form of armed intervention in Syria, the Vatican announced Pope Francis would interrupt the last week of his summer break in order to meet Aug. 29 with Jordan's King Abdullah II.

Jordan and Syria share a border, and Jordan is hosting some 500,000 Syrian refugees.

Both the pope and the king have repeatedly called for the international community to help broker a negotiated end to the fighting in Syria.

"It is not clashes, but an ability to meet and to dialogue that offers prospects for a hope of resolving the problems," the pope said Aug. 25 after reciting the Angelus with visitors in St. Peter's Square.

Pope Francis also denounced the "multiplication of massacres and atrocious acts," including the suspected chemical weapons attack that left hundreds dead.

In mid-August, images began circulating on the Internet and on television of victims of the suspected chemical weapons attack on a town on the outskirts of Damascus. The Syrian government blamed rebels for the attack, and the rebels blamed government forces.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Aug. 26: "We know that the Syrian regime maintains custody of these chemical weapons. We know that the Syrian regime has the capacity to do this with rockets. We know that the regime has been determined to clear the opposition from those very places where the attacks took place."

After several days of delay, supposedly for their protection, the Syrian government gave U.N. weapons inspectors permission to visit the site, but the inspectors had to turn back to their hotel Aug. 26 after their vehicles were fired upon. The Syrian government blamed the rebels, and the rebels blamed government forces.

British Prime Minister David Cameron called lawmakers back to London to discuss possible responses to the chemical attack.

Canada's Foreign Minister John Baird described the alleged chemical weapons attack as a "dark new chapter" in the Syrian crisis, but he told reporters Aug. 26 that the Canadian government "believes the only way to halt the bloodshed in Syria is through a political solution."

Alexander Lukashevich, the foreign minister of Russia, an ally of Syria, said in a statement Aug. 27 that military action without the approval of the U.N. Security Council would lead to "new suffering in Syria and catastrophic consequences for other countries of the Middle East and North Africa."


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