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Last Updated: Friday, 22 September 2006, 11:57 GMT 12:57 UK
Pope to meet Muslim ambassadors
Pope Benedict XVI. File photo
The Pope says he wants a "self-critical dialogue" among faiths
Pope Benedict XVI has invited envoys of Muslim nations for talks on Monday to try to smooth relations following a speech that offended the Islamic world.

The talks at his summer residence near Rome will be aimed at explaining that the pontiff's recent speech in Germany was misunderstood, the Vatican said.

The Pope has said three times that he regrets the offence caused, expressing "deep respect" for Islam.

Muslim leaders have been demanding an unequivocal apology from the Pope.

Iran's deputy ambassador to the Vatican, Ahmad Faihma, described the Pope's invitation as "a positive signal".

"I know that this [the talks] will improve relations with the Islamic world," Mr Faihma told Reuters news agency.

'Misunderstood'

The Pope invited Muslim ambassadors and leaders of Italy's Muslim community to his residence at Castelgandolfo, the Vatican said.

I am deeply sorry for the reactions in some countries to a few passages of my address... which were considered offensive to the sensibility of Muslims
Pope Benedict XVI

On Sunday, the pontiff said he was "deeply sorry for the reactions in some countries to a few passages of my address at the University of Regensburg" in Germany.

On Wednesday, he told pilgrims at the Vatican that his remarks in Bavaria last week had been "misunderstood".

He said his use of medieval quotes from 14th Century Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologos, which criticised some teachings of the Prophet Muhammad as "evil and inhuman", did not reflect his personal opinion.

The Pope said his real intention had been to "explain that religion and violence do not go together, but religion and reason do".


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