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Pope meets Gusmao after dialysis denial

Pope John Paul II met with East Timor's President Xanana Gusmao, a day after a Vatican spokesman denied Italian news reports that the Holy Father was on dialysis.

The two recalled the papal visit to the territory then occuplied by Indonesia, in October 1989. Gusmao was unable to meet the Pope in 1989 because he was in the jungle leading the independence movement.

Gusmao (pictured) was elected president after the country's independence was internationally recognized in May 2002. The Vatican press office gave no further details on the meeting.

In June, Gusmao was awarded the Path to Peace prize for his key role in the process of reconciliation and pacification of East Timor. The Holy See's UN mission conferred the award.

Meanwhile the Italian AGI news agency reported on Friday that doctors were considering dialysis to prevent his kidneys from being overburdened by medicine.

But a Vatican source said Saturday that there was "nothing new that is alarming" about the 83-year-old pope's health and insisted there was no need for dialysis, which - like the kidney - filters waste products, including toxins, from the blood.

Pope John Paul spent about 15 minutes in private talks with Gusmao.

John Paul also met with one of the Holy See's diplomatic envoys before heading to the Vatican's auditorium to address the pilgrims, who came from Sardinia.

Beginning in a strong voice, he thanked the pilgrims for coming. As he went on, some of his words were slurred.

The Guardian/AP

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13 Oct 2003