Page 1, 17th February 1967

17th February 1967
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Page 1, 17th February 1967 — The Pope to stepg Up his eaTpa: For peace
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Locations: London, Hanoi

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The Pope to stepg Up his eaTpa: For peace

BY A DIPLOMATIC CORRESPONDENT HE Pope is to increase his initiatives for peace in Vietnam despite the collapse of his etlorts during the Buddhist New Year truce extension. He was "deeply saddened" by the resumption of American bombing raids, said a Vatican official. Although the truce extension was brief his peace offensive" is now internationally acknowledged and appreciated. and events have highlighted his developing role as mediator.

At the beginning of the truce last week he sent messages to President Johnson, President Ho Chi Minh of North Vietnam and President Nguyen van Thieu of South Vietnam calling for peace talks.

`Constant Search'

In his message to President Johnson the Pope said: "We hope sincerely that the celebration of the Lunar New Year, so dear to the Vietnamese people, with the suspension of hostilities by all parties engaged in the conflict, may finally open the way to negotiations for a just and stable peace, 'putting an end to the great sacrifices imposed by a war which has now lasted for years. "We know quite well the obstacles which prevent achieving such a goal, but we have no doubt of your dedication, Mr. President, in the constant search for a way to peace."

To Ho Chi Minh, he expressed hope "that neither of the two parties perturb the calm with acts that can lead to a renewal of hostilities."

He asked President Nguyen Van Thieu to "neglect nothing" in seeking a "just and honourable solution." `High Influence'

Ho Chi Minh's reply, while restating his demand that the Americans must withdraw from Vietnam and allow the people to settle their own affairs, also appealed to the Pope to help bring an end to the war. • "It is my hope that Your Holiness, in the name of humanity and justice, will use your high influence to urge that the U.S. Government respect the national rights of the Vietnamese people, namely peace, independence, sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity as recognised by the 1954 Geneva Agreement on Vietnam."

The U.S. Defence Department explained that it had suspended operations for a short period after the truce in order to avoid any possibility that earlier resumption would be misconstrued in relation to Mr. Kosygin's visit to London.

President Johnson said the North Vietnamese had used the truce to resupply its troops in South Vietnam. "The door to peace is open, and will remain open. We are prepared to go more than half way to meet any equitable overture from the other side."

M.P.s Shocked

The new American bombing created a furore in the ranks of the Labour Party. More than 100 Labour M.P.s signed a motion condemning the move while others protested to the U.S. Embassy.

The M.P.s were doubly shocked because they thought the Kosygin visit had created a relaxed atmosphere, which might have helped to end the Vietnam crisis.

The Pope is believed to have received a lengthy report on the Vietnam crisis recently from Mgr. Georg Huessler, secretarygeneral of Caritas, the Catholic relief organisation, who recently had talks with Ho Chi Minh in Hanoi.




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