Trimble turns down human shield plea

Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble turned down an offer to become a human shield in the event of a war on Iraq, it was disclosed today.

Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble turned down an offer to become a human shield in the event of a war on Iraq, it was disclosed today.

Mr Trimble was one of a number of Nobel Peace Prize winners invited to Baghdad by three professors at a German university to discourage bombing raids should war be declared.

The academics from the Free University of Berlin also contacted bishops in the US and Europe in a bid to counter what they described as “the United States’ mad rush to war”.

Professor Peter Grottian said the campaign had received a poor response.

“Almost no-one will go,” he said. “In Germany we have not had a good response and people in many other countries have not replied.

“Frankfurt Bishop Walter Klaiber of the United Methodist Church in Europe is the only positive response we have got to say he will go.

“We have also had a good response from Bishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa. He did not accept, but he said it was a good thing.”

Professor Grottian also said he had received a negative response from Mr Trimble.

“I think there is no chance Mr Trimble will go,” he added.

In an open reply to the professors, the Ulster Unionist leader said he believed Saddam Hussein was “a very clear threat to the region”.

He also said he did not recognise any “mad rush” to war.

“Its (the US) policy has unfolded slowly and deliberately, just as it did over Afghanistan,” he said.

“President Bush went to the United Nations and called on it to ensure compliance with its own resolutions.

“He continues to seek a solution through it. It is those who unreasonably obstruct that search through their dislike of the United States or President Bush who pose a serious threat to the United Nations and the collective security that has given peace and democracy to so much of the world.”

Mr Trimble received the Nobel Peace Prize along with the then SDLP leader John Hume in 1998 for their work in establishing the Northern Ireland peace process.

An SDLP spokeswoman said today Mr Hume had not received a letter from the professors.

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