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Pope Praises Mideast Agreement

September 5, 1999

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy (AP) _ Pope John Paul II called the accord signed Sunday between Israel and the Palestinians a ``ray of light″ in a troubled world.

The pontiff’s comments came at a Mass shortly before he and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat were to meet at the papal summer retreat outside of Rome.

Earlier in Egypt, Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak signed a land-for-security agreement that revives the Middle East peace process.

Speaking to the faithful at his summer retreat outside Rome, John Paul said that the ``panorama before our eyes at close of this century has not a few shadows.″ But, he added, the land-for-security deal is ``comforting ray of light.″

Arafat was also in Rome on Saturday for a round of high-level meetings with the Italian president and the prime minister, who promised economic and political support to help assure a stable peace.

After the meetings, Arafat flew to the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh to meet with Barak and sign the accord. He returned to Italy for his papal audience on Sunday.

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