Sep 10 2012
By Khaula al- Ukaili
Azzaman, September 10, 2012
No date has been set for a possible visit by Pope Benedict XVI to Iraq, a government official said.
Bahaa al-Araji of the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities said the pope, who is visiting Lebanon on Friday, had 40 other stations to tour before deciding whether he will come to Iraq.
But Araji said Iraq has officially invited the Pope to pay a visit the ancient Sumerian city of Ur in the south which according to Biblical tradition was the birthplace of Abraham, revered by Jews, Christians and Muslims.
He said the Iraqi government was in touch with the Vatican to explore the possibility of giving the trip to Ur preferential treatment due “to the sanctity of the site.”
“But no decision has been taken,” he added.
However, he said, Ur itself was in need of repair and rehabilitation and “the Vatican has agreed to finance such a project.”
Araji claimed that “hundreds of millions of dollars are need to prepare the ancient city for such a visit.”
The government, he added, has agreed to allocate resources for the project, though he decline to give any figures.
Iraq is keen to use its ancient attractions to lure foreign tourists. Araji said the government wanted to turn a military airport close to Ur into a civilian one to make it easy for pilgrims to pay homage to the ancient city.
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