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AsiaNews – The Iraqi constitution; guarantees for the religious freedom of Christians in Iraq; and terrorism, especially after the recent attacks in Jordan, were the main topics of the talks between Benedict XVI and Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, who was received today in the Vatican.

Talabani himself said that the Pope called the new Iraqi constitution “progress”; he told the Holy Father that the rights and freedom of Iraqi Christians will be guaranteed.

The meeting between the two men took place in an atmosphere that those present called “very cordial”. As in other similar occasions, it started with a private audience of about 20 minutes followed by a public session during which gifts were exchanged and the members of the two delegations were introduced.

Speaking to the press afterward, President Talabani said he was “very grateful” to have met the Pope, who also gave his blessing for Iraq and Iraqis.

“I brought him up to date about the situation and talked to him about the elections and the constitution. He told me that he thought the constitution was progress and a good thing. He also said that he was following events in Iraq and that he prayed for Iraqis. I assured him that every freedom will be guaranteed to Christians”.

President Talabani also said that the attacks in Amman “were a crime, like those committed against Iraqis”. “In Jordan ,” he added, “there are groups that back terrorism. [But] the attack will help the country understand the true nature of terrorism, which kills our brothers, women and children”. He added that he sent a message of solidarity to Jordan ’s King Abdallah.

On the current situation in his country and the death of defence attorney involved in the trial of Saddam Hussein, he noted that he was saddened “by the death of man who was also a lawyer.”

“I am a lawyer too,” he stressed. “And we offered the attorneys involved in Saddam’s trial protection but they turned it down. The government is ready to protect them any way possible.”