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Last Updated: Saturday, 9 June 2007, 21:38 GMT 22:38 UK
Bush calls for action over Kosovo
Romano Prodi and George W Bush
The two leaders had lunch together in Rome
US President George W Bush has said a plan for Kosovo's UN-backed independence should take effect now, despite Russian and Serbian opposition.

Mr Bush was speaking after holding talks with the Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi, during a visit to Rome.

After the talks, riot police used tear gas against anti-Bush demonstrators.

The US president is now going to Albania on the next leg of his European tour, which has already taken him to the G8 summit in Germany and Poland.

Mr Bush on Saturday expressed frustration about the lack of international consensus on granting Kosovo independence from Serbia.

It's time to move the Ahtisaari plan [on Kosovo] forward
President Bush

He said he discussed Kosovo with Russian President Vladimir Putin during the summit, and it was "time to bring this issue to its head".

The G8 failed to reach consensus over Kosovo, in the face of strong opposition from Russia to independence for the province, which is still part of Serbia.

UN Special Envoy Martti Ahtisaari put forward a blueprint for Kosovan independence in April.

"It's time to move the Ahtisaari plan forward," Mr Bush said.

He also discussed the situation in Lebanon with the Italian prime minister.

President Bush and Pope Benedict
Mr Bush said the Pope was a "very smart, loving man"

"It's very important that foreign influences like that of Syria not be continually disrupting the Siniora government," said Mr Bush.

Thousands of protesters, most of them peaceful, marched in Rome in protest at Mr Bush's visit, culminating in a rally at the Piazza Navona.

But Italian riot police used tear gas against anti-Bush demonstrators who donned face masks in defiance of a police order and threw bottles and other objects, as the main demonstration reached its conclusion.

'Moving'

Earlier Mr Bush had his first audience with Pope Benedict XVI.

The pontiff raised his concerns about the plight of Christians in Iraq, and expressed hopes of a "regional and negotiated solution to the conflicts that afflict" the Middle East, the Vatican said.

Anti-Bush demonstrators and police in Rome, 9 June 2007
It's a disgrace the Italian government elected by the votes of pacifists should invite him to this country
Elio Luppoli
protester

President Bush said the two had discussed the situation in Iraq.

"He was concerned that the society that was evolving would not tolerate the Christian religion, " said Mr Bush.

"He's worrisome about the Christians inside Iraq being mistreated by the Muslim majority."

The Vatican said that "the Middle East, the Israeli-Palestinian question and Lebanon" were other topics at the talks.

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.

President Bush said talking to the Pope had been a "moving experience."

"I was talking to a very smart, loving man," said the US president.




VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
President Bush in talks with the Pope



SEE ALSO
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08 Jun 07 |  Europe
Profile: Pope Benedict XVI
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