Vatican bids farewell to Blair
Talks are said to have focused on the Middle East conflict and the future of EU.
Last Modified: 23 Jun 2007 16:59 GMT
Blair leaves office as prime minister 
next week [AFP]
The Vatican has bid farewell to Tony Blair as British prime minister, wishing him well in what it said were his plans to work for Middle East peace and inter-religious dialogue.
Blair and Pope Benedict XVI met privately for 25 minutes on Saturday and then were joined for further talks by Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, English Cardinal.
The Vatican stop on Blair's farewell tour has fuelled rumors that he plans to become a Roman Catholic.
A Vatican statement made no mention of the conversion rumours and the press office called the audience a normal meeting between the pope and a government leader.

Blair leaves office on Wednesday.


The statement, issued after the talks with Benedict and a separate meeting with Tarcisio Bertone, secretary of state cardinal, said there was a "frank" assessment of the international situation.


The discussion is understood to included such themes as the Middle East conflict and the future of the EU.


The Vatican opposed the US-led invasion of Iraq, which Blair supported.


The statement said that Blair has expressed the desire "to dedicate himself in a particular way for peace in the Middle East and for inter-religious dialogue."


Blair's life after Downing Street has been a matter of speculation.


Earlier this week, it was suggested that George Bush, the US president, wants Blair to take the job of Middle East envoy for the Middle East Quartet.


Al Jazeera reported last week that Blair was recommended to join of peacemakers, comprising the US, Russia, the EU and the UN.


Downing Street has refused comment on the reports.

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