Iranian leader meets Pope in Vatican visit

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Vatican, January 26, AZERTAC

Iran's president has paid a call on Pope Francis at the Vatican during a European visit aimed at positioning Tehran as a potential top player in efforts to resolve Middle East conflicts, including Syria's civil war, according to the AP.

President Hassan Rouhani's motorcade of limousines crossed St Peter's Square for the late-morning, closed-door meeting on Tuesday with the pontiff.

In his nearly three years as pope, Francis has stressed mediation and dialogue as the best way to solve conflicts. That determination inspired his role between Cuba and the United States to pave the way for the Communist-led Caribbean nation to achieve normalisation with Washington after decades of strict embargo.

Similarly, Tehran is keen on re-establishing flourishing energy and other economic ties with Europe, long a dependable trading partner. Iran also wants to end decades of diplomatic distance with the West in the wake of the landmark deal with six nations, including the United States, to curb Tehran's nuclear activities and end economic sanctions.

Before going to the Vatican, Rouhani told a forum of business leaders in Rome that "Iran is the safest and most stable country of the entire region".

The president is making the first state visit by an Iranian president to Europe in nearly two decades.

Italy also sees Iran as a potential peacemaker for Syria's civil war, as the Italian government fears the warfare will further destabilise Libya, just across the Mediterranean from southern Italy, fuel terrorism and jeopardise energy security.

Rouhani's four-day visit to Italy and next, to France, is part of efforts by Iran to reach out to its old partners following the implementation of the nuclear deal, and Rouhani is eager for foreign investments after the lifting of international sanctions.

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