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Pope Urges Iran to Promote Political Solution in Middle East

  • VOA News

Iran's President Hassan Rouhani (R) is welcomed by Pope Francis at the Vatican, Jan. 26, 2016.

Iran's President Hassan Rouhani (R) is welcomed by Pope Francis at the Vatican, Jan. 26, 2016.

Pope Francis has urged Iran to use its “important role” to promote peace in the Middle East and help halt the spread of terrorism and weapons trafficking.

The pope made the appeal during a 40-minute closed-door meeting with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani at the Vatican Tuesday.

A Holy See statement after the meeting pointed to the "relevant role Iran is called on to play" to find political solutions to the problems the Middle East is facing, specifically terrorism and arms trafficking.

Since elected, about three years ago, Pope Francis has emphasized mediation and dialogue as the best way to solve conflicts.

Rouhani's visit to the Vatican marked the first meeting between a pope and an Iranian president since 1999. His trip to Italy is also the first state visit by an Iranian president to Europe in nearly two decades.

European visit

Rouhani's four-day visit to Italy and France is seen as part of Iran’s effort to reach out to its old partners following the implementation of the nuclear deal with six nations, including the United States. Rouhani has shown great interest for foreign investment since the lifting of international sanctions that followed the deal.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani (l) meets Italian President Sergio Mattarella, upon his arrival at the Quirinale Presidential palace, in Rome, Jan. 25, 2016.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani (l) meets Italian President Sergio Mattarella, upon his arrival at the Quirinale Presidential palace, in Rome, Jan. 25, 2016.

Before going to the Vatican, Rouhani told a forum of business leaders in Rome that "Iran is the safest and most stable country of the entire region.''

Rouhani has described the talks leading to the nuclear deal as a potential blueprint to resolve Middle East conflicts, including Syria's civil war.

Iran also wants to end decades of diplomatic distance with the United States and other Western counties.

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