U.N. official, pope, Italian leaders talk

March 26, 2008 at 10:00 PM

ROME, March 26 (UPI) -- A top U.N. official met Wednesday with Pope Benedict XVI and Italian leaders in Rome to talk about climate change, religion and the poor.

In a private meeting, U.N. General Assembly President Srgjan Kerim briefed the pope about the assembly's current session and discussed the Catholic spiritual leader's impending visit to New York next month, the United Nations said in a news release. Benedict is expected to address the 192-member assembly April 18, a Kerim spokesman told reporters.

In a meeting with Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Kerim discussed the Alliance of Civilizations initiative and the pope's role in the U.N. inter-religious dialogue. The cardinal noted Benedict closely supported the world body's work in these areas.

Kerim's discussions with Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi and Foreign Minister Massimo D'Alema dealt with climate change, the upcoming debate in the assembly on development goals, Security Council reform and U.N. management reform.

Kerim travels to Helsinki Thursday to meet with Finland's President Tarja Halonen, Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen, Foreign Trade and Development Minister Paavo Vayrynen and Parliament Speaker Sauli Niinisto.

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