Mbeki set to meet new pope in Italy

President Thabo Mbeki will pay a courtesy call on the newly inaugurated Roman Catholic Pope Benedict XVI during his visit to Italy on Friday and Saturday, the foreign affairs department said on Wednesday.

"It is envisaged that President Mbeki will reconfirm the important role of the Church in supporting the fight against poverty and underdevelopment," spokesperson Ronnie Mamoepa said in a statement.

Mbeki was also scheduled to hold discussions with his Italian counterpart Carlo Azeglio Ciampi and Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi in Rome on Friday.

Issues on the agenda were expected to include the consolidation of political and economic bilateral relations, European support for the African agenda, peacekeeping and conflict management in Africa, the forthcoming G8 Summit, and reform of the United Nations.

On Saturday, Mbeki would, at the invitation of United States bank Morgan Stanley, address the European, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) CEO Summit in Venice.

The Summit, scheduled from Thursday to Saturday, was the largest gathering of chief executive officers (CEO's) and chairpersons in Europe, and would represent many of the leading companies from their respective regions.

"The summit will focus on the impact of global issues on the corporate sector while captains of industry are expected to engage with President Mbeki on the role of the New Economic Partnership for Africa's Development in the fight against poverty and underdevelopment in Africa," Mamoepa said.

Mbeki would be accompanied by Trade and Industry Minister Mandisi Mpahlwa. - Sapa

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