Italy offers to host Mideast summit

ROME, Oct. 11 (JTA) – Italy has offered to host a Middle East peace summit in Rome.

“We are awaiting a response” from regional leaders on whether such a meeting “would be conducive” to the peace process, Italian Prime Minister Giuliano Amato said when he made the announcement Wednesday before a session of Parliament.

Amato announced the invitation a day after he and Foreign Minister Lamberto Dini met in Rome with former Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres. Before that meeting, Peres said the violence in Israel had to stop before the peace process could get back on track.

“You cannot have negotiations and terror at the same time. You cannot combine water and fire together. It is either-or,” he told a news conference.

Peres also met Tuesday evening with senior Vatican officials. Prior to that meeting, he said he thought a call for peace from Pope John Paul II, who maintains good relations with the Palestinians, could help the situation.

On Wednesday, the pope issued a strong appeal in which he “begged” for peace in the Middle East.

At the end of his general audience in St Peter’s Square, the pope referred to “events that have caused numerous victims and have not even spared holy places.”

“Faced with such a dramatic situation, I can only beg everyone to put an end to this spiral of violence without delay,” he said.

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