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Bush Urges UN Status for Vatican

May 26, 2000

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) _ Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush said today the Vatican should be allowed to maintain its ``permanent observer status″ at the United Nations, and he urged the White House to make its position clear.

``In world affairs the Holy See has long been an influence for the good and never more than in the last two decades,″ Bush said.

He noted that private groups have been arguing that the Vatican’s status, which gives it a chance to take part in discussions of abortion and other issues, should be changed.

``The position of the administration is unclear,″ he said. ``The position of my administration will be very clear and firm: America supports permanent observer status for the Holy See.″

Asked for comment, a White House press spokesman said he would seek an official response.

The Texas governor, whose statement was distributed in Austin, also addressed the subject today in an address by satellite to the Catholic Press Association meeting in Baltimore.

Bush was criticized during the Republican primaries after speaking in February at Bob Jones University, a South Carolina school whose leaders have espoused anti-Catholic views. He later apologized for not being ``more clear in dissociating myself from anti-Catholic sentiments and racial prejudice.″

The Vatican, classified as a nonmember state with permanent observer status, has many of the same rights and privileges as the 188 countries that are full U.N. members. Though it has no vote, the Vatican can take active part in debates and conferences, where it has made a strong mark on family planning and abortion issues.

Last year, the private group Catholics for a Free Choice, which supports abortion rights, is seeking a formal review of the Holy See’s status, saying the Vatican’s claim to be a state was questionable and it should be treated more like a non-governmental organization.

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