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CHURCH LEADER SAYS U.S. CRUCIAL TO PEACE IN THE MIDEAST ARMENIAN CLERIC TO MEET MAYOR.

Byline: Alex Dobuzinskis Staff Writer

The United States has a big role to play in establishing peace in the Middle East, where Christians are awaiting peace as eagerly as are Jews and Muslims, an Armenian church pontiff said Sunday during his visit to Southern California.

His Holiness Aram I, Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia, is based in Antelias, Lebanon, and speaks Armenian, English, Arabic and French.

More than 500,000 Armenians live outside Armenia in the Middle East in such countries as Iran, Lebanon, Syria and Israel, along with other Christians.

``You can imagine that the peace process ... for us (is) something of profound importance,'' Aram said. ``This is the only way to bring the region out of what I would say is its centuries-old conflict.''

Aram is on an official visit to California on the 10th anniversary of his ascension to the head of the Lebanon-based branch of the Armenian Apostolic Church.

This week he will visit the Armenian-American community in Fresno, then come back to Los Angeles on Friday to meet with Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

Aram said the United States has a role to play in promoting peace in the Middle East, and he said conflicts in the Middle East are more than just political.

``I think we should go beyond politics in the strict sense of the word,'' Aram said. ``The question is how we can we live together.''

Rabbi Yosef Kanefsky, president of the Board of Rabbis of Southern California, has a different view. A political solution to the conflict must come before religion can play a positive role.

``It's the folks with the weapons and the oil who are calling the shots, not the people inside the house of worship,'' he said.

Dr. Maher Hathout, spokesman for the Islamic Center of Southern California, said Christians living in the Middle East have an important role to play, especially in Israel.

``By virtue of their message and their long history of good relations with Muslims and the fact that (orthodox Christians) and the Muslims and Jews were victims of the Crusade(s), will give them that historical role to act as mediators for peace,'' he said.

Alex Dobuzinskis, (818) 546-3304

alex.dobuzinskis(at)dailynews.com
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Oct 10, 2005
Words:370
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