NEW YORK, Feb 20, 03  ( -- In an address to the UN Security Council, the Vatican's representative has called attention to the "irreplaceable" role of the UN itself, and urged new efforts to find a peaceful solution to the crisis in Iraq.

Archbishop Celestino Migliore, the new permanent observer for the Holy See at the UN headquarters in New York, cautioned that the UN could not be concerned only with the threats posed by Iraq. While Iraq may harbor weapons of mass destruction, there are similar dangers, he said, "unfortunately, in other parts of the world."

The Italian newspaper La Repubblica characterized the archbishop's statement as a particularly important one, insofar as it revealed the negotiating stance of the Holy See. La Repubblica pointed out that recent Vatican peace initiatives have been highly publicized, used as "mediation missiles" in an all-out attempt to defuse the crisis in the Middle East.

Archbishop Migliore told the Security Council that it was easy to understand the concerns of the international body over Iraq's failure to comply with UN resolutions. However, he continued, "The Holy See is convinced that, in the efforts to draw strength from the wealth of peaceful tools provided by the international law, to resort to force would not be a just one." He went on to say that although "the process of inspections appears somewhat slow, it still remains an effective path that could lead to the building of a consensus."

The archbishop also pointed to the widespread international opposition to military action. He observed that " the vast majority of the international community is calling for a diplomatic resolution of the dispute and for exploring all avenues for a peaceful settlement. That call should not be ignored."

Military action against Iraq, the Vatican envoy continues, would have "grave consequences for a civilian population that has already been tested long enough." But he also mentioned a danger which has been emphasized frequently by Vatican spokesmen: the possibility that an attack on Iraq could ignite broader conflicts between the West and the Islamic world. As Archbishop Migliore put it, the dangers of war include "the dark prospects of tensions and conflicts between peoples and cultures."

The Vatican's relentless efforts to prevent war caused La Repubblica to note the unprecedented publicity campaign that the Holy See has conducted. Vatican Radio has broadcast programs virtually every day calling into question the American stance regarding Iraq. These broadcasts, aired in 39 different languages, "bombard" the world with the Vatican viewpoint, the Italian report noted. Earlier this week the director of Vatican Radio, Father Pasquale Borgomeo, again took to the airwaves personally to denounce "unilateralism" and insist that the Church must support efforts to preserve the fragile peace.