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Catholic leaders press UN Security Council to act over Iraq

Europe's most senior Catholic leaders have called on the UN Security Council to use "every possible, legitimate means" to put a stop to the crisis in Iraq which has forced thousands of Christians and other ethnic minorities to flee their homes to escape Islamist fighters.

In an open letter, the Association of the Catholic bishops' conferences in Europe urges the International Community to stop "tragedy unfolding" in Northern Iraq.

The CCEE says the current crisis, "not only endangers multicultural coexistence that is part of our globalized world, but it is also a risk for Christians in a region where they have lived since the earliest years of Christianity and whose presence is appreciated and necessary for regional and world peace".

Cardinal Vincent Nicholls has also witten a seperate letter to the Foreign Secretary, Philip Hammond praising the UK government's humanitarian response, but has also called for the 'relief operation' and 'crucial diplomatic efforts' be increased.

Meanwhile, a Welsh bishop has questioned the British government's reaction to the crisis in Iraq.

The Bishop of St Asaph has stopped short of calling for direct military intervention alongside the US, but speaking on Premier's 'News Hour', Rt Revd Gregory Cameron said: "the Westminster government has been slow of the mark and reluctant to engage fully".

Iraq Christians

I think what we're seeing here is a humanitarian crisis, which demands a swift and powerful response", said Bishop Gregory.

The Prime Minister has said Britain will play a role in rescuing the thousands of civilians fleeing Islamist fighters in Iraq, but has insisted the UK's involvement will remain a humanitarian mission only.

David Cameron, who returned from his holiday earlier than expected on Wednesday to chair a meeting of the government's Cobra emergency committee to discuss the crisis has come under increasing pressure from some MPs to recall parliament.

Mr Cameron said: "there are detailed plans now being drawn up; Britain will play a role, just as we played a role with British planes and British aid... helping to keep these people alive in a really desperate situation."

The United Nations has warned that up to 30,000 people are still facing a "potential genocide" on Mount Sinjar in northern Iraq.

The UK has airdropped a third round of relief supplies, including water and shelter kits, while the US carried out a sixth delivery of food and water to civilians trapped on the mountain overnight.

Some Iraqis have managed to escape to camps in the Syrian Kurdish town of Malikiya, 20 miles from the border.

US Secretary of State John Kerry has said America is urgently assessing how to move people off Mount Sinjar which continues to be surrounded by Islamic State (IS) extremists, with thousands of members of religious minority groups still under threat from the jihadist group.

The Bishop of St Asaph, Rt Revd Gregory Cameron:

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