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Bush outlines agenda for meeting with Pope

US President George W. Bush says he hopes he can count on John Paul II's help for his program to reduce poverty and injustice in the world.

On Monday, following the G8 summit in Genoa, the Holy Father will receive Bush for the first time since the President took over the White House.

Commenting on his forthcoming meeting with the Holy Father, Bush told the Italian daily La Stampa: "I hope to talk with a man of capital importance, a great world leader, who voices strong convictions. His holiness and influence have been extraordinarily important in fostering liberties."

"I appreciate his efforts, which are always inspired by a spirit of reconciliation," Bush said. "The Holy Father has an enormous impact in my country, because he is the leader of the Catholic Church. For example, he is a staunch defender of the right to life and the right to be heard, even for those without a voice. I have profound respect for the Catholic Church and its leadership. I think we will have a cordial and intense conversation."

When Bush returns to the United States he is expected to decide whether or not to support federal funding for stem cell research involving human embryos.

The two are scheduled to meet at Castel Gandolfo, near Rome. "I will be in the presence of a man of immense depth, an extraordinary moral force," Bush said. "What he says has consequences throughout the world. I am also happy to return to Rome, where my daughter studied at the American College for six months. I remember when I went to visit her, in the fall of 1998, shortly after my re-election as governor of Texas. It was a fantastic experience. I cannot wait to return."

Asked for his recipe to defeat poverty, the president replied: "The windows of opportunities must be opened in Genoa so that the United States, our allies and our friends can see and understand better, the problems that afflict the developing countries, and to agree at the G8 summit on a joint strategy. Whoever is prosperous must have policies to reinforce that prosperity, with fewer taxes, fewer regulations and free trade."

"In the second place," he added, "we must work together to give ourselves a common security policy, which will help us to address the challenges of the 21st century. Prosperity for all means a stable and secure world. Along with its friends and allies, the United States must be determined to combat sicknesses and reinforce education.