Europe

Iranian leader gives pope rug, wants Francis to pray for him

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.