VATICAN CITY (AP) — The Latest on Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s visit to Europe (all times local):
The Vatican says Iran now should play a role in combatting terrorism as Tehran becomes a regional player to resolve Middle East conflicts.
Iran’s president has asked Pope Francis to pray for him after private talks at the Vatican.
President Hassan Rouhani’s four-day European swing aims to help position Tehran as a player in Middle East peace efforts, after the country reached a deal with world powers to limit its nuclear activities in exchange for an end to economic sanctions.
Rouhani told Francis after their 40-minute meeting Tuesday: “I ask you to pray for me.” The Iranian called the visit “a real pleasure.”
Francis thanked Rouhani for the visit and added: “I hope for peace.”
The last time an Iranian president held a state visit to Italy was in 1999.
Iran’s president is boasting to a forum of business leaders in Rome that his country is now the safest and most stable in the region. Hassan Rouhani is using the first state visit by an Iranian president to Europe in nearly two decades to boost his country’s economy, now that a nuclear deal has led to the lifting of sanctions.
Italy also sees Iran as a potential peacemaker for Syria. Pope Francis, who has stressed reconciliation and mediation, could explore that potential at his meeting on Tuesday with Rouhani.
Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni says, after meeting his Iranian counterpart, that Tehran can be a regional player in reducing Middle East tensions, starting with Syria’s civil war.