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Peace plea for Lebanon

VATICAN CITY (CNS): Pope Benedict XVI appealed for an end to conflict in Lebanon and Gaza, then helped children launch two doves to symbolise the search for peace around the world.

Addressing pilgrims from his apartment window above St Peter’s Square on January 28, the Pope said he was worried about new “fratricidal clashes” in Lebanon.

Violent confrontations during a nationwide strike on January 23 left three dead and nearly 200 injured.

The strike was sponsored by the Hezbollah movement and was aimed at toppling the government of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora.

He encouraged all Lebanese to work together on a common solution to their political problems, and overcome “selfish behaviour”.

Meanwhile, after a meeting with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on January 29, a delegation of US Christian, Jewish and Muslim leaders said they thought the United States should take a more vigorous leadership role in promoting a comprehensive peace in the Middle East.

Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, the retired Archbishop of Washington, said the group met with Ms Rice “to reiterate our strong commitment to a two-state solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict” and to discuss “the urgent need for United States leadership to restart and successfully conclude negotiations for a lasting and just peace between Israel and the Palestinian people”.

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