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Monday, August 11, 2003

Pope will make nice with Abu Mazen

This story from Yahoo News/AP:
Pope John Paul II will meet with Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas on Aug. 26 at the pontiff's summer residence outside Rome, Palestinian officials said Monday.

Vatican officials confirmed that the pontiff and Abbas would hold talks but did not give details. The Palestinian representative in Rome, Nimer Hammad, said the two men would meet at the papal palace in Castel Gandolfo.

John Paul, who has made numerous appeals for an to end the Mideast conflict, has met several times with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, including two summers ago in Castel Gandolfo. But the Aug. 26 meeting would be the first talks between the pope and the new Palestinian prime minister.

Abbas will hold talks a day earlier in Rome with Premier Silvio Berlusconi, Hammad said. On the agenda will be discussion about the possibility of a visit by Berlusconi to the Palestinian territories, Hammad said. The Italian premier went in June to Israel, where he met with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon but avoided Arafat.