BEIRUT

Middle East

Official: Israeli PM not meeting pope after all

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at the weekly cabinet meeting at his Jerusalem office on Sunday, Oct. October 2013. (AP Photo/Abir Sultan, Pool)

OCCUPIED JERUSALEM: An Israeli official says Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will not meet Pope Francis on a trip to Italy this week, backing off from an earlier announcement that a meeting was planned.

The official cited "logistical reasons" for the change. But the Vatican said a meeting had never been planned.

Vatican spokesman Rev. Federico Lombardi said Monday "the Israeli premier is welcome, but this week the pope had other commitments."

Israeli media speculated that bad planning or an overzealous office worker were behind the initial statement. Last week, Francis met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

The Israeli official said Netanyahu's other scheduled meetings with Italian leaders and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry would take place as planned.

He spoke on condition of anonymity pending the release of Netanyahu's official schedule.

 

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