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Contrary to announcement, Israel PM not meeting pope

Oct. 20, 2013 8:16 P.M. (Updated: Oct. 20, 2013 9:26 P.M.)
JERUSALEM (AFP) -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will not be meeting with Pope Francis in three days, a diplomatic source said Sunday, after the premier's office had previously said they would.

A statement from Netanyahu's office had said the premier would be "meeting Pope Francis next Wednesday at the Vatican" and with US Secretary of State John Kerry for updates on nuclear talks with Iran and negotiations with the Palestinians in Rome.

But a diplomatic source on Sunday told AFP no such meeting with Francis will be taking place, noting that audiences with the Pope must be arranged sufficiently in advance.

A spokesman for Netanyahu refused to comment on the matter.

This was to be Netanyahu's first meeting with Pope Francis. On Thursday, president Mahmoud Abbas met with the pope and invited him to the Holy Land. Israeli President Shimon Peres also invited Francis during a visit earlier this year.

Francis has said he would like to travel to the Middle East, but the Vatican has not confirmed the trip, despite a report by Israel's Channel 2 television that it will take place in March.

Abbas is the fourth Middle East leader to have met Pope Francis after Peres, Lebanese President Michel Sleiman and King Abdullah of Jordan.
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