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Obama Meets with Pope at Vatican

U.S. President Barack Obama and Pope Benedict have met at the Vatican for wide-ranging talks on international issues as well as human rights.

A Vatican statement released after the meeting listed the defense and promotion of human life and the right to freedom of conscience as leading issues. It said their discussions also included immigration, the Middle East peace process, and the global economic crisis and its implications for food security and development aid, especially for Africa and Latin America.

Mr. Obama stopped at the Vatican following the summit in Italy of leaders of the world's eight richest countries.

A Vatican spokesman, Father Federico Lombardi, told reporters Mr. Obama assured the pontiff of his determination to reduce the number of abortions in the United States.

At the start of the meeting, the pope was overheard asking Mr. Obama about the G8 summit, which the president called very productive.

The pope and Mr. Obama are known to disagree on such issues as abortion, but they do agree on such matters as helping the poor.

U.S. first lady Michelle Obama joined them toward the end of the 25-minute meeting. The pope also privately met with the president's two daughters, Malia and Sasha.

During an exchange of gifts, the pope presented Mr. Obama with a mosaic picture of St. Peter's Square and two books on the church's view of bioethics and the sanctity of life. The president gave the pontiff a stole that once draped the body of St. John Newmann, one of America's first saints.

Mr. Obama is now on his way to Ghana, on his first trip to sub-Saharan Africa as president.

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