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(AP, AFP) - Pope John Paul II told Armenia's president on Friday that the Holy See supports all efforts for a peace settlement in the disputed enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh.

The pope's call for "real and lasting peace" in the region was a major theme of John Paul's talks with President Robert Kocharian, on a visit this week to the Vatican and Italy.

"I hope that a real and stable peace will spring forth in the Nagorno-Karabach region where you, Mr President, come from," the pope said in a speech in Russian read for him by an aide. He called for "the decisive rejection of violence and a patient dialogue between the parties, under active international mediation".

John Paul, who visited Armenia in 2001, sent his greetings to Armenians all over the world, describing them as people "always linked to their culture and Christian traditions."

Kocharian was scheduled to meet later Friday with Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi, then travel to Venice for visits over the weekend to an Armenian monastery and church. He held talks with Italian President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi on Thursday.

(AP-Photolur photo: Kocharian and Italian President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi hold a joint press conference at the end of their meeting in Rome's Quirinale Presidential Palace.)
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