Pope meets leaders in Lebanon

The pontiff, who is on a three-day visit, will meet the PM and parliament speaker

Pope Benedict XVI is to meet leaders in Lebanon on Saturday. The encounter will be particularly poignant coming after several days of protests against a US-made film.

The pontiff, who arrived on Friday for a three-day visit, will travel to the presidential palace in the Beirut suburb of Baabda and first meet President Michel Sleiman, a Maronite Christian.

Before his talks with the leadership, he will also meet Prime Minister Nagib Mikati, and parliament speaker Nabih Berri.

He will also deliver a speech to the assembled dignitaries on the common vocation of Christians and Muslims to be religions of peace.

Thousands of people lined the road leading to the palace in bright but pleasant sunshine, hoping to catch a glimpse of the Pope.

Lebanese and Vatican flags fluttered, and there was a festive atmosphere on the streets.

Zeina Khoury, a Maronite who lives nearby, said she, her husband and two children got up at 6 am to make sure they could find a place along the route.

"This is a blessing for Lebanon," she said. The pope's visit is "important because it can bring us peace and because it reminds us of the importance of living together."

"I brought my children to see the pope ... because it could be the only chance they will ever have in their life."

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