Pope comments on Islam: Al Qaeda in Iraq vows to conquer Rome
Al Qaeda in Iraq vowed war on "worshippers of the cross" and protesters burned a papal effigy on Monday over Pope Benedict's remarks on Islam. The statement by an umbrella group led by Iraq's branch of al Qaeda said "We tell the worshipper of the cross (the Pope) that you and the West will be defeated, as is the case in Iraq, Afghanistan, Chechnya."
"We shall break the cross and spill the wine ... God will (help) Muslims to conquer Rome ... (May) God enable us to slit their throats, and make their money and descendants the bounty of the mujahideen," said the statement. The statement cited a hadith (saying of the Prophet Mohammed) promising Muslims they would "conquer Rome ... as they conquered Costantinople."
In Iraq's southern city of Basra, up to 150 demonstrators chanted slogans and burned a white effigy of the Pope.
On his part, French President Jacques Chirac refused on Monday to criticize the 79-year-old Pontiff, but called for a more diplomatic use of language. "It is not my role or my intention to comment on the Pope's statements. I simply want to say, on a general level ... that we must avoid anything that excites tensions between peoples or between religions," Chirac said on Europe 1 radio.