Iran's president and Pope Francis have exchanged gifts and wishes for hope and prayers after they met privately at the Vatican.

President Hassan Rouhani brought the pope a red-toned carpet, about 80 cms (32 inches) by 1.2 meters (4 feet) and explained that the rug was hand-made in the Holy City of Qhom. Francis seemed curious as Hassan leafed through a book illustrating Iranian artworks, another gift.

Francis shook hands warmly with Rouhani, who is trying to shape a role as regional conflict solver for Iran after the recent nuclear accord led the West to lift sanctions.

The pope's gift had a spiritual spin. Francis bestowed a medal depicting St. Martin giving his cloak to a shivering man, saying the gesture represents a sign of brotherhood.