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Bush, Pope Meet at Vatican - 2004-06-04


Pope John Paul has urged President Bush to assure a speedy return of sovereignty to Iraq, with the help of the international community and the United Nations.

Though not directly mentioning the scandal over the abuse of Iraqi prisoners by U.S. guards, the pontiff said he was deeply troubled by what he termed recent deplorable events.

The two leaders met at the Vatican today (Friday) as protesters were gathering in Rome to demonstrate against U.S. actions in Iraq.

Mr. Bush presented the pontiff with the presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest U.S. award for a civilian.

He said the pope, through his faith and moral conviction, has given courage to others to overcome repression and topple Communism and tyranny.

It is the first day of the president's European trip marking the 60th anniversary of the World War Two liberation of Rome and the D-Day invasion in Normandy.

After leaving the Vatican, the president stopped at the Ardeatine Caves to pay tribute to 335 Italians massacred by the Nazis during the war. This came ahead of meetings with employees of the U.S. Embassy in Rome and dinner with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

Italian authorities have deployed about 10-thousand police in the capital, amid concerns that protesters will try to disrupt the Bush visit.

From Italy, President Bush travels to Paris on Saturday to meet with French President Jacques Chirac, hoping to warm relations strained over Iraq. On Sunday, Mr. Bush will be among 17 heads of state and government due to attend ceremonies in Normandy commemorating the D-Day landings -- the Allied invasion of Nazi-occupied France on June 6th, 1944.

Information for this report is provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.

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