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Pope backs G8 stand on Lebanon July 19, 2006

Pope Benedict XVI has indicated his support for a statement released by the leaders of the G8 industrial nations regarding the crisis in Lebanon.

In a brief exchange with reporters on July 18, as he returned to his vacation home in the Alpine village of Les Combes after a long afternoon hike, the Holy Father responded to a question about the Middle East by saying, "I fully agree with the G8 statement."

At their meeting in St. Petersburg, Russia, the G8 leaders had approved a statement calling for an immediate ceasefire. The G8 statement urged Israel to act with restraint, but suggested that the primary blame for the latest violence should fall upon Hezbollah terrorists.

“These extremist elements and those that support them cannot be allowed to plunge the Middle East into chaos and provoke a wider conflict," the G8 leaders agreed. "The extremists must immediately halt their attacks.”

Pope Benedict said that in his view, the G8 statement "indicates the path" that should be taken toward peace in the Middle East. That statement had called for the safe return of Israeli soldiers who have been captured in Gaza and Lebanon; a halt to the rocket attacks and terror bombings on Israeli territory; the end of Israeli military operations in Lebanon; rapid withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza; and the release of Palestinian parliamentary leaders who have been arrested by Israeli forces.

"I have nothing to add," Pope Benedict said, "except the importance of prayer that God will help us."

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