Slum pope/billionaire: Pontiff and United States president to meet


President Trump, on his first trip overseas, will travel later this month to Saudi Arabia, Israel and the Vatican in an effort to unite Islam, Judaism and Christianity in the common cause of fighting "intolerance" and radical extremism, White House officials said Thursday.

"From Rome, the President will continue on to previously announced visits to Brussels for the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation summit and meetings with European Union and Belgian leaders, and to Sicily for the G7 meeting", Spicer said.

"Hopefully something terrific can come out between the Palestinians and Israel", said the Trump at the meeting.

Trump has provided no concrete details on how he will revive long-stalled peace talks, but has asked Israel to limit its building of Jewish settlements on land the Palestinians want for a state.

From Saudi Arabia, Mr Trump will travel to Israel - leaving open the possibility of an additional stop in the West Bank.

Trump, who met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House in February, has assigned his son-in-law Jared Kushner to oversee efforts to broker peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

Mr Trump will also stop in Rome to meet Pope Francis at the Vatican as part of the trip, the official said.

This is published unedited from the IANS feed.

Two U.S. officials said a U.S. -Saudi working group met at the White House Monday and Tuesday to negotiate the trip, as well as financing for military equipment sales and stopping terrorist financing.

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The trip has been coordinated by the White House, in cooperation with the National Security Council and the State Department, another official said.

"The Vatican is about soft power, and this is a language very few people speak in Trump's White House". Former President Barack Obama visited nine countries by late April 2009, his first three months in office, meeting with allies such as Canada, Britain and Germany.

There is also a clear interest among top aides in the White House to counter the view Trump has cultivated overseas.

"What the president has demonstrated already", one official said, is that "'America first' is fully compatible with American leadership".

From there Trump will travel to the Vatican, where he will be received by Pope Francis on May 24.

But many have been surprised by the president's choice for his first destination - Saudi Arabia, a once strong ally which has taken a more aggressive and independent line towards regional issues in recent years.

Trump ran on a ban of Muslims entering the United States, proposing the in a December 2015 announcement a "total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States" until American officials could get a handle on terror.

The trip itinerary breaks a tradition going back to Ronald Reagan for US presidents to make their first foreign visit to a neighboring country, either Canada or Mexico.