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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 11 December 2018

Iraqi President meets Pope Francis appealing for unity and reconciliation 

Barham Salih believes Iraq can bring together people of all faiths to affirm value of peace

Pope Francis meets with Iraqi President Barham Salih at the Vatican. EPA
Pope Francis meets with Iraqi President Barham Salih at the Vatican. EPA

Iraqi President Barham Salih met Pope Francis in Rome on Saturday, in hope of appealing for security and reconciliation in the war-torn country.

“Honored to have met His Holiness the Pope, he cares deeply for Iraq and prays for our success, invite him to visit Ur, where Abraham started his mission of peace and unity,” Mr Salih said in a tweet.

Mr Salih presented the pope with a silver statue of a palm tree and in return Francis gave the Iraqi president a medal with two olive branches, saying it was a representation of unity between the two states.

"Iraq can bring together believers from all faiths to affirm values of peace, tolerance and to confront extremism," Mr Salih said.

The Iraqi president also met Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte and President Sergio Mattarella in Rome on Thursday.

Mr Salih took part in the Mediterranean Dialogues where he stressed that "Iraq has the opportunity to play a leading role for stability in the region".

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Meanwhile in Iraq, the head of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) Masoud Barzani met with Shiite cleric Moqtada Al Sadr in the holy city of Najaf.

Mr Al Sadr said the talks with the Kurdish leader were "important and historic", and the beginning of a "new and positive approach on the political process in Iraq”.

Despite no longer leading Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region, Mr Barzani remains a powerful figure as leader of the KDP. His meeting with Mr Al Sadr is a sign of an improvement of relations between Baghdad and the region, after ties were strained by a controversial Kurdish independence referendum held last year.

Mr Barzani also held talks with Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi on Thursday in another sign of the warming of ties between the Kurdish region and Baghdad since Mr Abdul Mahdi took office a month ago.