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Last Updated: Saturday, 9 June 2007, 12:18 GMT 13:18 UK
Pope urges Mid-East peace talks
President Bush and Pope Benedict
Mr Bush earlier said he would be in a "listening mode"
Pope Benedict XVI has told visiting US President George Bush that he would like to see a "regional and negotiated" solution to Mid-East conflicts.

The Pope also raised the war in Iraq and the plight of Christians there and had an "exchange of opinions" on Latin America, the Vatican said.

The private talks lasted 30 minutes and were described as "cordial".

Mr Bush later met Italian PM Romano Prodi, as thousands in Rome were set to protest against the Iraq war.

The visit is the latest leg of the US president's European tour.

On Friday he visited Poland after three days at the summit of G8 leaders in Germany.

Security concerns

Mr Bush and the Pope shook hands and posed for photographs ahead of talks in Pope Benedict's private library.

Anti-Bush poster in Rome
It's a disgrace the Italian government elected by the votes of pacifists should invite him to this country
Elio Luppoli

In brief exchanges, Mr Bush described the just-concluded G8 summit as a "success".

But when asked by the Pope whether the dialogue with Russian President Vladimir Putin "was also good", Mr Bush said he would answer "in a minute" - before the two men went behind closed doors.

"The worrying situation in Iraq and the critical situation of the Christian community there" were among issues discussed along with "the Middle East, the Israeli-Palestinian question and Lebanon," the Vatican said in a statement.

The two men also discussed "ethical and religious issues" including human rights and freedom of religion, "the defence and promotion of life, marriage and the family, the education of new generations and sustainable development," it said.

There was an exchange of gifts and then Mr Bush spent a few minutes with Cardinal Bertone, the Vatican Secretary of State and number two to the Pope at the Vatican, before leaving for a working lunch with Mr Prodi.

The BBC's David Willey, in Rome, says President Bush told the Pope about his plans for increasing American aid to Africa and particularly for increasing help to Aids sufferers.

CIA trial

The BBC's Jonathan Beale, who is travelling with Mr Bush, says that while in Rome the president will face questions over US flights carrying terror suspects overseas.

Hours before Mr Bush arrived, the first trial over the CIA's "extraordinary rendition" programme opened in Milan.

Twenty-six Americans and six Italians are accused of kidnapping a Muslim cleric from Italy and sending him to Egypt, where he was allegedly tortured. The CIA agents and US military personnel will be tried in absentia.

However, Mr Prodi has said the case will not be on the agenda when he meets Mr Bush.

On Saturday, Mr Bush goes to Albania and Bulgaria.

President Bush and the Pope meet

First CIA rendition trial opens
08 Jun 07 |  Europe
Profile: Pope Benedict XVI
15 Sep 06 |  Europe
Country profile: Italy
02 Mar 07 |  Country profiles

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