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Pope Francis Meets Iranian President at Vatican

© ANDREW MEDICHINI / POOL / AFP

Pope Francis (R) and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani poses after their private audience on January 26, 2016, at the Vatican. Rouhani on January 26 described Iran as the safest and most stable country in the Middle East as he urged international investors to help modernise the country's sanctions-hit economy. On the second day of a landmark visit to Europe, the Iranian leader also pitched the Islamic Republic's potential for companies seeking a base in a region of 300 million people and vowed the government would never interfere in private business deals. / AFP / POOL / ANDREW MEDICHINI

Diane Montagna - published on 01/26/16

Leaders discuss religious freedom and Tehran's role in the Middle East following lifting of sanctions

VATICAN CITY — On Tuesday morning Pope Francis met with President Hassan Rouhani of the Islamic Republic of Iran at the Vatican, to discuss human rights, religious freedom and Tehran’s  role in the Middle East following the lifting of sanctions on the regime earlier this month.

According to a Vatican statement, during the 40-minute meeting in the Vatican Apostolic Palace, the two leaders discussed “the good state of relations between the Holy See and the Islamic Republic of Iran, the life of the Church in the country and the action of the Holy See to favor the promotion of the dignity of the human person and religious freedom.”

The Vatican statement continued: “Attention then turned to the conclusion and application of the Nuclear Accord and the important role that Iran is called upon to fulfill, along with other countries in the Region, to promote suitable political solutions to the problems afflicting the Middle East, to counter the spread of terrorism and arms trafficking.”

“In this respect, the Parties highlighted the importance of inter-religious dialogue and the responsibility of religious communities in promoting reconciliation, tolerance and peace,” it read.

Tuesday’s meeting is the first between a Roman pontiff and an Iranian leader since Pope St. John Paul met with President Seyyed Mohammad Khatami on March 11, 1999. It comes on day two of a four-day visit by President Rouhani to Italy and France. It is the Iranian president’s first trip abroad since sanctions on Iran were loosened as part of the Nuclear Accord with Iran.

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