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President Bush Meets Pope Before Heading to Paris


U.S. President George Bush has met with Pope Benedict at the Vatican, as he continues his week-long European trip.

After his talks with the pontiff, Mr. Bush was traveling to Paris, France, where he is to give a speech later Friday on the strong relationship between the U.S. and Europe.

U.S. National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley said Mr. Bush will urge European leaders to work even more closely with the U.S. to help bring peace to the Middle East.

Mr. Hadley said the trans-Atlantic relationship has been strengthened by the current leaders in Italy, Britain, Germany, and France.

The White House says Mr. Bush's speech will also commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Marshall Plan - the U.S. aid program that helped rebuild Europe after the devastation caused by World War II.

The president and Mrs. Bush are then scheduled to have dinner with the French president and Mrs. Sarkozy at the Elysee Palace. Mr. Bush and Mr. Sarkozy hold formal talks on Saturday.

On Thursday President Bush met with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and the two leaders agreed to to work together on trying to convince Iran to give up its uranium enrichment program. Mr. Berlusconi said Italy has a trading relation with Iran and knows that country from the inside.

President Bush said he will consider Italy's request to join the five permanent U.N. Security Council members and Germany in working on the Iran nuclear issue.

But Mr. Hadley said it is always a problem when a country's commercial ties clashes with its national security requirements.

Mr. Bush's European trip will also take him to Britain and Northern Ireland. Earlier, he stopped in Germany and attended the annual U.S.-European Union summit in Slovenia.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and AP.

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