Mubarak and Pope Discuss Mideast Peace

Egyptian President Thanks John Paul II for 2000 Visit

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VATICAN CITY, FEB. 20, 2001 ( The need for peace in the Mideast was the main topic of discussion at a meeting here this morning between John Paul II and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

Mubarak, who was accompanied by his wife and an entourage of 15 people, reciprocated the visit that the Pontiff made to his country a year ago. At the time, the Holy Father was following in Moses´ footsteps to Mount Sinai in Egypt, in the context of the Jubilee pilgrimage to places of revelation.

A gift exchange marked the half-hour meeting. The Pope received a precious papyrus, and the Egyptian president and his entourage received pontifical medals.

The meeting went beyond simple diplomatic protocol. Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls in a statement explained that the Mideast peace process was addressed, «with the hope that a more relaxed atmosphere of dialogue will be established as soon as possible, which is necessary to re-establish mutual confidence and to take advantage of the objectives reached to date.»

The spokesman said that during the audience «the Holy See reiterated the need to put an immediate end to all forms of violence in the region, in order to dedicate all possible attention and efforts to achieve a real and just peace, which cannot be attained without respect for international law on the part of all, and with the conviction that peoples have the same rights and duties.»

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