Killing of Italian hostage condemned by Pope and prime minister


Pope John Paul II  issued a ''firm condemnation'' of the execution of an Italian hostage, saying he hoped that all ''understand the urgent need to reject violence'' in Iraq, and Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi denouncing the slaying as “barbaric” and vowed on Friday that Italian troops would not leave Iraq.

Enzo Baldoni, 56, an Italian journalist, was held hostage by ''The Islamic Army in Iraq,'' and was reported to have been killed by the TV station Al-Jazeera, who received a video of the execution. They had issued a statement saying that if Italian troops did not leave Iraq within 48 hours – which passed on Thursday, they could not guarantee Baldoni’s safety.

''There are no words to describe this inhuman act that with one blow wipes out centuries of civilization to bring us back to the dark ages of barbarity,'' Berlusconi said in a statement.

''We will be faithful to the commitments taken with the Iraqi provisional government in the framework of U.N. decisions to give back peace and democracy to Iraq,'' said the Prime Minister indicating that the 3000 Italian troops stationed in Iraq would stay.

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