Vatican urges Iraq to halt Aziz execution

VATICAN CITY—The Vatican has urged Iraq to not carry out the death sentence meted out to former Iraqi foreign minister Tariq Aziz and says it may intervene diplomatically to try to halt it.

The 74-year-old Aziz, the only Christian in Saddam Hussein’s mainly Sunni inner circle, was sentenced to death by hanging Tuesday for persecuting Shiites.

The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said Tuesday the Vatican hoped that the sentence wouldn’t be carried out. He said commuting the sentence would encourage reconciliation and the rebuilding of peace and justice in Iraq.

He said the Vatican usually would pursue any possible humanitarian intervention to halt an execution via diplomatic channels.

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