Mohammad Khatami meets Pope Benedict XVI

Saturday, May 5, 2007

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Ayatollah Mohammad Khatami.
Pope Benedict XVI

Mohammad Khatami, the president of Iran from 1997 to 2005, was among a delegation of Islamic clerics to meet Pope Benedict XVI in the Vatican City in Rome on Friday. This is Khatami's first meeting with Pope Benedict XVI and his second with a pope.

Khatami told a press conference after the meeting that the wounds caused by Benedict XVI's remarks that linked Islam to violence were "very deep." He, moreover, stated that the wounds "cannot be healed easily and a single meeting may not be enough."

On the issue of terrorism, Khatami made it clear that dialogue is the best solution to "eliminate terrorism and the great military conflicts," stressing that one cannot invoke God "as a password for war and hate." He emphasized the need for a "joint effort."

The Vatican issued a statement to the press which said that the meeting provided an opportunity to reflect on the importance of a serene dialogue among cultures to overcome the "severe tensions that mark our time".

The situation of Christian communities in the Middle East and in Iran and the need for "strong initiatives" from the international community to help resolve the situation in the Middle East was also discussed, the statement said.

Noting the high-level diplomatic conference in Sharm al-Sheikh, the meeting called for serious negotiations that take into account everyone's rights and respected international legality.

In the talks which lasted about 30 minutes, Khatami and Benedict XVI concurred that the Sharm al-Sheik conference to resolve the tensions in Iraq was a positive development. Later, Khatami met with Romano Prodi, the Prime Minister of Italy.

Khatami is not representing the government of Iran on this trip.

Khatami met with Pope John Paul II in 1999.