Mon, Dec 25, 2006 - Page 6 News List

Foreign Office raps Archbishop of Canterbury

THE OBSERVER , LONDON

A serious row between church and state broke out on Saturday night in the UK after the Foreign Office rebuked the Archbishop of Canterbury for accusing the government of putting Christians across the Middle East at risk because of its "shortsighted" and "ignorant" policy in Iraq.

Writing in a newspaper yesterday, Rowan Williams said the consequences of Anglo-American foreign policy have been the erosion of good relations between Muslim and Christian communities.

"One warning often made and systematically ignored in the hectic days before the Iraq War was that Western military action ... would put Christians in the whole Middle East at risk," Williams wrote. "The results are now painfully adding to what was already a difficult situation for Christian communities across the region."

Williams, who is currently visiting Israel, said that thousands of Christians were fleeing Iraq every few months, while some priests had been murdered.

The Foreign Office, however, said that while the church leaders were entitled to their views, they were wrong to blame British foreign policy.

"It's not the policies of the UK which are causing suffering for Christians in Iraq or the Middle East," said a Foreign Office spokesman. "It's the fact that there are intolerant extremists inflicting pain and suffering on people. These extremists are indiscriminately killing Christians, moderate Muslims, Sunnis and peoples of all faiths."

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