Press Association: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has appealed to Pope Benedict XVI "to make his voice heard" and use his moral authority to condemn the harsh anti-Israel rhetoric voiced by Iran's hard-line president.
The Press Association
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has appealed to Pope Benedict XVI "to make his voice heard" and use his moral authority to condemn the harsh anti-Israel rhetoric voiced by Iran's hard-line president.
The two men met privately for about 15 minutes, sharing their views about the Middle East.
Benedict has repeatedly called for the establishment of a Palestinian homeland during his current pilgrimage to the Holy Land.
Meanwhile Netanyahu, leader of the Likud Party, has pointedly refused to endorse the concept of Palestinian independence — a cornerstone of international policy for the region.
The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said the talks "centred on how the peace process can be advanced."
But speaking to Israel TV afterward, Netanyahu made no mention of the Palestinians, saying he had appealed to the pontiff to speak out against Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
The Iranian leader has repeatedly called for Israel's destruction and questioned whether the Holocaust took place.
"I asked him, as a moral figure, to make his voice heard loud and continuously against the declarations coming from Iran of their intention to destroy Israel. I told him it cannot be that at the beginning of the 21st century there is a state which says it is going to destroy the Jewish state, there is no aggressive voice being heard condemning this," Netanyahu said.
Netanyahu said he was pleased with the pope's response: "He said that he condemns all instances of anti-Semitism and hate against the state of Israel — against humanity as a whole — but in this case against Israel."
Netanyahu has been trying to rally international pressure to halt Iran's nuclear program. Israel, the US and other Western countries believe Iran is seeking nuclear weapons — a charge Tehran denies.