Khatami said on Wednesday that it would be a "very great pleasure and honour" to travel to Rome to attend the pope's funeral.

Khatami called the pope "a religious dignitary, a person who sought coexistence, moderation, dialogue between religions, someone who sought dialogue between Islam and
Christianity".

Speaking to a French television channel, he added that he wanted to show his respect for the pope.

John Paul II died on Saturday night after a protracted illness.

He was the first pope in history to set foot in a mosque during a visit to Damascus.

Since his death, he has been widely praised for building bridges with the Islamic world.