Ahmadinejad to meet with Pope?

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Rome, May. 29, 2008 (CWNews.com) - Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is likely to meet with Pope Benedict XVI (bio - news) during a visit to Rome this week, according to some Italian media reports. But the circumstances of the meeting-- if it takes place-- remain unclear.

The controversial Iranian leader has made an urgent request for a meeting with the Pontiff. The Vatican has not announced plans for a private audience.

The daily La Repubblica now reports that the Pope will hold an unofficial meeting with Ahmadinejad-- a private talk without the usual trappings of honor guard, anthems, and official addresses. On the other hand Corriere della Sera predicts that the Pope will meet with Ahmadinejad in a group, along with other government leaders who are attending the FAO conference.

Ahmadinejad will be in Italy during the first week in June for a meeting of UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), which is headquartered in Rome. The Iranian embassy has disclosed that the Islamic leader has asked "repeatedly" for an opportunity to speak with the Pontiff. Iran has made a concerted effort to enlist the help of the Holy See in its efforts to ward off diplomatic pressure from the US and the UN.

Ahmadinejad has no plans to meet with Italian President Giorgio Napolitano or with the country’s Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi while he is in Italy.

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