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Israeli President Peres says pope has role to play in Mideast peace, invites him for visit

  • Pope Francis, right, exchanges gifts with Israeli President Shimon Peres on the occasion of their private audience, at the Vatican, Tuesday, April 30, 2013. (AP Photo/Ettore Ferrari, Pool)The Associated Press

  • Pope Francis, right, talks to Israeli President Shimon Peres on the occasion of their private audience, at the Vatican, Tuesday, April 30, 2013. (AP Photo/Ettore Ferrari, Pool)The Associated Press

  • Pope Francis, right, welcomes Israeli President Shimon Peres on the occasion of their private audience, at the Vatican, Tuesday, April 30, 2013. (AP Photo/Ettore Ferrari, Pool)The Associated Press

Israeli President Shimon Peres says Pope Francis should use his influence to press for peace in the Middle East, and invited the pontiff for a visit.

The Israeli Nobel Peace Prize laureate met the new pontiff Tuesday. Peres also met with Italian political leaders.

Peres spoke to the pope about peace negotiations with the Palestinians and the potential threat of a nuclear-armed Iran.

Peres said the pope had "an important role in progressing peace."

The Vatican and Israel established diplomatic relations in 1993. Popes Benedict XVI, John Paul II and Paul VI all made pilgrimages to the Holy Land.

The Rev. Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, said Francis welcomed the invitation to visit Israel but that no trip is on the pontiff's immediate agenda.