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Pope in Turkey on 1st Visit to Predominantly Muslim Country


Pope Benedict has begun his first official visit to predominantly Muslim Turkey, a four-day tour he says is aimed at promoting dialogue between religions and cultures.

The Roman Catholic pontiff got a warm greeting Tuesday from Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the airport in Ankara.

They shook hands and held brief talks before Mr. Erdogan left for a NATO summit in Latvia.

The pope also is to meet today with Turkish President Ahmet Necdet Sezer and the country's top Muslim official, Ali Bardakoglu.

Benedict will travel to the western city of Ephesus Wednesday, before flying on to Istanbul.

On Sunday, an estimated 20-thousand Turks demonstrated in Istanbul against the visit, which comes two months after Benedict ignited controversy in the Muslim world with comments widely seen as critical of Islam.

Smaller demonstrations occurred Monday and today.

In his comments in Germany, Benedict cited a 14th century Christian emperor who called some of the Prophet Muhammad's teachings "evil and inhuman."

The pope has since stressed that he does not share that view, and has expressed regret for the violent Muslim backlash.

The Vatican said the speech was an attempt to highlight the incompatibility of faith and violence.

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