AMMAN, Jordan – Pope John Paul II's special envoy to Iraq arrived in Jordan on Monday en route to Baghdad with a message from the pontiff to Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.
"I believe until the end that a solution [to the crisis] is possible and we can't give up," Cardinal Roger Etchegaray told reporters upon arrival from Rome at the airport in the Jordanian capital, Amman.
Etchegaray, a veteran of Vatican diplomatic missions to tense areas, planned to spend the night in Amman and fly to Baghdad on Tuesday.
Describing himself as "a messenger of peace of the pope," Etchegaray said he was carrying a message from the pope to Saddam. He did not divulge its contents, but said he recognized the urgency of the situation.
"We won't forget all the wars in the world, but this threat which is looming here in this region is very dangerous," he said in comments to The Associated Press. "We have to believe in peace and we have to hope for peace. We have to hope more, until the end ... It should be a just peace."
The 80-year-old French cardinal said the pontiff had decided to explore "the last limits of hope."
A day earlier, the Vatican said the cardinal was going to emphasize the pope's plea for peace and to try to encourage Iraqi authorities to cooperate with U.N. weapons inspectors.
The United Nations wants Iraq to rid itself of weapons of mass destruction. America has been massing military forces in the region and warning of the possibility of war if Saddam doesn't comply completely and swiftly.
The Vatican has repeatedly opposed a possible war against Iraq. John Paul II strongly opposed the 1991 Gulf War and has denounced U.N. sanctions imposed on Baghdad since Saddam's 1990 invasion of neighboring Kuwait.
Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz is scheduled to meet the pope at the Vatican on Friday.
Aziz, a Chaldean Christian, was to travel to Assisi in Italy for a morning of prayer and the lighting of a peace lantern with Franciscan monks in the frescoed Basilica of St. Francis.