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POPE-IRAN Dec-27-2006 (270 words) xxxi

Pope receives Iranian delegation, letter from president

By Cindy Wooden
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Benedict XVI met briefly Dec. 27 with Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki, who gave him a letter from President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

The Vatican press office confirmed the receipt of the letter, but did not comment on its contents.

Pope Benedict met Mottaki and a four-member delegation in one of the reception rooms of the Vatican audience hall immediately after the pope's weekly general audience.

"During the course of the meeting, the Iranian representatives expressed their best wishes to the pope and their pleasure for 50 years of diplomatic relations between Iran and the Holy See," said a Vatican statement.

"For his part, the Holy Father also offered them best wishes and reaffirmed the role the Holy See intends to exercise for peace in the world, not as a political authority, but religious and moral, appealing to consciences so that the problems of peoples always are resolved through dialogue in mutual understanding and peace," the statement said.

The press officers at the Iranian Embassy to the Holy See and at the Iranian Embassy to Italy were unavailable for comment.

Ehsan Jahandideh, a spokesman for Ahmadinejad, told reporters in Tehran, Iran, that the president's letter did not deal with political concerns, but "on the need to find a way for putting an end to the sufferings of mankind and for promoting human relations based on common religious teachings."

The spokesman said the president wrote the pope that dialogue and cooperation among religious believers could help promote greater justice among individuals and nations.


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