IMAGE: Benedict XVI, Manouchehr Mottaki, Rahim Moshaee
L'osservatore Romano / Ap
In this photo provided by the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano, Pope Benedict XVI meets with Iran's Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki, second right, and Vice President and Head of Iran Cultural Heritage and Tourism Organization Esfandiar Rahim-Moshaee at the Vatican on Wednesday.
updated 12/27/2006 6:18:31 PM ET 2006-12-27T23:18:31

Pope Benedict XVI received a letter Wednesday from Iran's hard-line president about the recent U.N. Security Council resolution imposing sanctions against Tehran for refusing to compromise on its nuclear program, Iran's state-run news agency reported.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's letter was delivered by Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki after the pontiff's general audience at the Vatican's Paul VI hall, the Vatican said.

The Vatican did not release details of the content of Ahmadinejad's letter, but Iran's state-run IRNA news agency said the note focused on Saturday's Security Council vote approving sanctions against Tehran.

The Vatican said Benedict stressed his apolitical role in his brief meeting with Mottaki.

The pope "reaffirmed the role that the Holy See intends to carry out for world peace, not as a political authority but as a religious and moral one ... so that peoples' problems will always be solved in dialogue, mutual understanding and peace," the Vatican said in a statement.

Earlier this month, the Vatican indirectly criticized a conference of Holocaust deniers held in Iran, saying the Holocaust "was a great tragedy before which we cannot remain indifferent" and which must serve as a warning to people's consciences.

Also this month, Benedict met with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who urged Christians to protest Holocaust denials. Ahmadinejad has called for the destruction of Israel and questioned whether the Nazi genocide of 6 million Jews took place.

The Security Council voted Saturday to impose limited sanctions on Iran for its refusal to cease enrichment of uranium — a process that produces the material for either peaceful nuclear power or warheads.

The United States and its allies accuse Iran of using its civilian nuclear program as a cover for developing a nuclear bomb. Iran denies this, saying its program is strictly for generating electricity from nuclear fuel.

Ahmadinejad told a gathering in Tehran on Sunday that Iran is a "nuclear country," whether the world liked it or not.

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