Sudan's Leader Meets Pope, Vows to Honor Ceasefire

In controversial Italy visit, Bashir pledges quiet during October peace talks
By Wesley Oliver,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 14, 2007 3:24 PM CDT
In this photo released by the Vatican nespaper "L'Osservatore Romano", Pope Benedict VI talks with Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir during a private audience at the Vatican Friday, Sept. 14, 2007. President...   (Associated Press)
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(Newser) – Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir, in a rare and controversial visit to Italy, promised today to observe a ceasefire in Darfur during October peace talks. Pope Benedict used a meeting with Bashir to stress the importance of human rights, while Italy’s PM voiced “strong concerns” over the four-year genocidal crisis. Bashir urged Europe to encourage Sudanese rebels to attend the talks.

Italian PM Romano Prodi has been criticized within Italy and the European community for welcoming a man one British official termed “primarily responsible for the slaughter in Darfur.” Bashir routinely denies support of the genocide and assured the pope that Catholics weren’t being repressed by the predominantly Muslim government. The Darfurian peace talks begin October 27 in Libya.