ROME - Speaking slowly and softly to an attentive President Bush, Pope John Paul II reaffirmed his opposition to the war in Iraq yesterday and decried "deplorable events" related to it, an apparent reference to the abuse of Iraqi detainees by U.S. forces.
In their third meeting since Bush has been president, the pope called for a quick return of sovereignty in Iraq, with an active role to be played by the international community, particularly the United Nations.
"The recent appointment of a head of state in Iraq and the formation of an interim Iraqi government are an encouraging step towards the attainment of this goal," the pontiff said.
The pope also expressed the hope for new negotiations that would lead to a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.
He spoke haltingly, straining to get out the words, and his hands trembled as a result of Parkinson's disease.
His words were barely audible, and he skipped over one paragraph in his prepared text.
Yet they reflected the attitude of much of Europe about the war and its consequences.
Thousands of demonstrators marched in Rome in protest of Bush's Iraq policies, highly unpopular in Italy, and there were a few reported clashes with police. About 10,000 police were deployed to deal with any possible violence.
Although Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi had said Thursday that he was worried about "absurd violence" overtaking the capital, police reported only a few isolated incidents, and the government labeled an anti-war march organized by the Communist Party and anti-globalization and pacifist groups "a flop."
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