Orthodox and Shiite officials urge peaceful settlement of Iraqi problem

Bishop Theophanos, a hieararch of the Russian Orthodox Church, is positive the Iraqi problem can be settled by peaceful means alone.

"A country must not impose a different political, economic, religious or cultural system on another country especially by military means," bishop Theophanos said at a press conference on Thursday after a meeting of the Russian-Iranian commission on dialogue between Islam and Orthodoxy.

The meeting agenda was dominated by globalisation-related issues, nevertheless the conferees also discussed the Iraqi problem.

Condemning all kinds of terrorism, illegal use of force and all forms of military action in addressing international problems, the conferees voiced a protest against unilateral approaches to problems and conflicts.

"It is up to a nation to determine their life. We are opposed to imposing foreign traditions on a country not only in the economic sphere and in terms of a form of government, but also in the religious and cultural domains," said the hierarch.

Abandoning the policy of double standards is also fundamental for resolving the Iraqi and other conflicts. "There must be no double standards, differentiation between 'good' and 'bad' terrorists. There are no good terrorists," emphasised the hierarch.

Islamic Culture and Communications Organisation (Iran's culture ministry) head and Joijat al-Eslam (second most important position in Shiite Islam) Mahmoud Muhammadi Araki, who is leading the Iranian delegation, echoed the Orthodox hierarch's opinion.

The Iranian guest had earlier met Ravil Gainutdin, head of the Council of Russian Muftis.

"The Russian leaders' openness in promoting friendly relations with its long-established partners has for several decades now been demonstrating our most sincere plans to the world. Cooperation between Russia and Iran will only consolidate with time," the Iranian culture official said to Mr Gainutdin.

Mr Araki said Russia and Iran had considerably stepped up bilateral contacts over the past few years.

Mr Gainutdin said, for his part, that the two countries had intensified cooperation in the political and economic spheres, as well as in the religious and cultural domains. "This inspires optimism in our hearts and confidence in friendship between the Iranian and Russian peoples," said Mr Gainutdin.

The parties agreed to step up cooperation between the Muslim organisations of Russia and Iran and to hold a series of conferences and symposia on religious issues.

Moreover, they are intent at intensifying contacts in the sphere of religious education.

Mr Araki arrived in Moscow on April 26, above all, for a meeting of the Russian-Iranian commission on dialogue between Islam and Orthodoxy. The foreign church relations department of the Moscow patriarchy is expected to sum up the outcomes of the meeting in a statement on April 29.

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