INTERNATIONAL

Pope, Mahmoud Abbas hold talks

VATICAN CITY: Pope Benedict XVI held talks on Saturday with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, who expressed hope the Pontiff would visit Jerusalem. ``You will be very welcome in Jerusalem and all the holy places,'' Mr. Abbas, speaking English, told the Pope after their private 20-minute meeting, when journalists were allowed to witness their goodbyes. ``Thank you very much,'' the Pope replied. Both men were smiling and appeared relaxed. Last month, Israeli President Moshe Katsav invited the Pope to Israel. No details about Mr. Abbas' meeting with the Pope in the Pontiff's library were released immediately. The Palestinian leader scheduled a news conference for later in Rome. The Vatican news bulletin listed the meeting, which was expected to include a review of West Asia tensions and peace prospects, without comment. One of the members in the Palestinian delegation presented the Pope with what was described as a ``Palestinian passport.''On Friday, after talks with Italian leaders, Mr. Abbas vowed to end the violence that marred primary elections in Palestinian territories earlier in the week. — AP