Pope John Paul II received Yassar Arafat at the Vatican yesterday morning. During the 20 minute audience he appealed for an end to violence in the Middle East, and a commitment to dialogue and law as the only solution to the conflict. Vatican press office director Joaqu'n Navarro-Valls, said that Arafat came to report "on the worrying situation in the Palestinian Territories, referring in particular to the recent tragic events that have even affected Christianity's holy places." Many buildings in the West Bank have been left badly damaged by the Israeli army's latest incursion into the territory. The Basilica of the Nativity was riddled with bullet holes on 20 October when several people were shot there. Fr Navarro-Valls said that Arafat clearly expressed the desire of Palestinian peoples for peace and condemned all forms of terrorism. He said the Pope expressed his concern for the victims of the violence and appealed once again for all sides to lay down their arms and renew negotiations. Pope John Paul II and Yassar Arafat have now met in Rome eleven times. They also met during the Pope's trip to the Holy Land in March 2000.
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