Iran's Rouhani asks pope to pray for him

Iran 'open to investors' he tells business forum

(ANSA) - Rome, January 26 - Visiting Iranian President Hassan Rouhani asked Pope Francis to pray for him on Tuesday.
    In a 40-minute audience with the leader of the Catholic Church, the Iranian chief gave the pope a hand-made carpet from Iran's holy city of Qom, and an illuminated book. Francis reciprocated with a medal of St. Martin symbolizing brotherhood, and a copy of his ecological encyclical Laudato Si' (Praised Be) in English and Arabic, there being no Farsi edition. The two leaders then talked about the recent accord on Iran's nuclear programme and its role in helping solve conflicts in the Middle East, the Vatican press office said.
    "Thank you for your visit and I hope for peace", Francis said.
    Taking his leave, Rouhani asked the pope to pray for him.
    He said the meeting "pleased me greatly", adding "I wish you well in your work," according to some of those present. Tuesday was Rouhani's first visit to a pontiff, on the first trip to Europe by an Iranian president in 16 years. Earlier on Tuesday, Rouhani addressed an Italy-Iran Business Forum.
    "We must engage in a win-win economic collaboration," he told participants on what was his second day in the nation's capital. "Iran is currently the safest and most stable country in the entire (Middle Eastern) region" and is now open to foreign investors after years of sanctions, Rouhani said. "Iranians know Italy and your work - they trust Italians," he said. The leader added that Islam's Koran, or holy book, teaches interfaith tolerance between Christians, Jews and Muslims. "The church, the synagogue and the mosque sit side by side," Rouhani said. "We must first preserve the church, then the synagogue, then the mosque - this is the culture of tolerance the Koran teaches us". Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni hailed renewed relations with Iran - and the oil, raw material, transportation and other business deals being signed between the two nations - as a sign that the late Enrico Mattei's dream of dialogue and economic collaboration "has become reality". Mattei (1906-1962) organized Italy's Ente Nazionale Idrocarburi (ENI) state-owned fuel company after World War II, and negotiated oil deals with Iran and the Soviet Union during the Cold War. "When we began our activities in Iran, we were dreamers," Gentiloni said, quoting Mattei.
    The Iranian chief arrived for his three-day visit Monday, when he met Italian President Sergio Mattarella and Premier Matteo Renzi. He will visit the Colosseum Wednesday morning before flying on to Paris.