Associated Press

December 1, 1994

VATICAN CITY (AP) -- Pope John Paul II repeated his desire to visit Israeli during a meeting Thursday with Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, but he again declined to commit himself to a date, Vatican officials said.

The pope and Peres met for 30 minutes, with the Israeli renewing a long-standing invitation for a visit.

Speaking to Israel radio after the meeting, Peres said the pope would visit Israel "before the end of the century."

A Vatican statement said they discussed issues linked to the Middle East peace process, including relations with Palestinians, Lebanon and the "future" of Jerusalem.

On Jerusalem, a city holy to Jews, Christians and Muslims, the Vatican has insisted that access to religious sites be assured through international guarantees.

In a television interview broadcast by an Italian religious station earlier this week, Peres re-affirmed the Israeli position that Jerusalem will always be Israel's capital and that politically the issue was closed.

Earlier, Peres presented his book The New Middle East, which has come out in Italian, to an audience of Italians and Israeli officials.