.- Ahead of an international meeting for peace, which is taking place today in Rome, Pope Benedict XVI called for continued prayers for peace in Lebanon and expressed his hope that the process of establishing a lasting peace can now begin.
The Pope said that he is praying that the international conference for Lebanon, "may bear fruit and bring concrete results for peace, for a solution that goes to the roots of the problem."
"I feel that something is now moving,” the Pontiff added, “I see that prayers are not in vain."
Representatives from 16 countries, as well as United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan are taking part in the conference. The list of countries and organizations attending includes Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, the World Bank, the European Union, Egypt, France, Russia, Britain, the United States, and Italy. Spain, Germany and Turkey are also to attending. Israel, however, is not represented at the meeting.
The Holy See is participating, by invitation, as an observer to the proceedings. The Holy See delegation is being led by Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo, secretary for Relations with States. Two counselors for Lajolo, Msgr. Franco Coppola and Msgr. Alberto Ortega Martin, are also in attendance.
The meeting is being jointly chaired by Condoleezza Rice and the Italian foreign minister, Minister Massimo Dálema. CNN reports today that the plan of topics for discussion includes negotiations for ceasefire, a U.N. military intervention, humanitarian aid, and the recent deaths of four U.N. military observers. The attending countries are part of the "Lebanon Core Group," a collection of nations and organizations that want to help with the impoverished country's reconstruction.
While the United States has voiced its opinion that no ceasefire can begin until a long-term plan for peace is established, most of the other countries as well as the U.N. argue that an immediate ceasefire is in order and that a long-term plan for peace can be formulated after that. U.N. reluctance to enter the war zone until a ceasefire has been enacted is strongly attributed to the recent deaths of four U.N. military observers who were killed when an Israeli plane bombed their observation post.