A YORK church leader today revealed he is to reach out to Muslim groups in the city as Britain prepares to attack Iraq.

The Rev Martin Baldock said it was vitally important to make sure there were no "divisions along faith grounds" if a conflict did break out in the Middle East.

With the prospect of war looking increasingly inevitable, Mr Baldock, Vicar of St Edward the Confessor, Dringhouses, said civil war among different religions must be avoided.

He has been holding prayer evenings at the church every Wednesday and providing guidance to his parishioners.

Writing in a newsletter, Mr Baldock said: "I doubt that I am the only person uneasy at the prospect of a war with Iraq.

"Presumably there are others who are wondering what our Government is dragging us into."

Mr Baldock said the most effective work must be prayer, but he set out plans to "listen and learn" by contacting Muslim groups in York.

He told the Evening Press: "I think the most important thing is that we are praying. It is a sign that people are aware and doing something about it.

"There are a couple of Muslim groups in York and we had a meeting with local clergy. I was quite ashamed that, as a church, we weren't doing anything to liaise with different faith groups.

"We want to meet and try to build up a relationship and approach of working together. York is a wide area. This is about creating building blocks for the future."

The church will continue to be open every Wednesday evening for prayer between 6pm and 6.30pm until Easter.

Mr Baldock said: "There are sincere people, committed to peace, who believe that this war is the best way to a lasting peace, and equally, sincere people on the other side of the argument."

Updated: 08:08 Thursday, March 13, 2003