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Pope hails Arab Spring and 'renewed Arab dignity'

Pope Benedict has landed in Lebanon for a three-day visit to the country. Reconciliation between religions will be high on his agenda.

Pope Benedict XVI touched down in Lebanon on Friday for a three-day visit to the country.

He was welcomed to the capital, Beirut, by Lebanese President Michel Suleiman after a 21-gun salute and with church bells ringing out across the city.

Hailing the so-called Arab Spring, which has seen the overthrow of several dictators in the Arab world, the pope in his welcoming address acknowledged the "renewed Arab dignity" it had brought. He added that it was a positive "cry for freedom" as long as it was accompanied by religious tolerance.

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Pope arrives in Lebanon

Benedict also called for an end to arms imports into the region in a bid to halt the conflict in neighboring Syria.

He said that the coexistence of Lebanon's different religious communities could serve as an example to all the Middle East.

"This conviviality to which your country wishes to bear witness will run deep only if it is founded upon welcoming regard for the other and upon an attitude of benevolence, and if it is rooted in God who wishes all men to be brothers," the pontiff said.

Reconciliation between Christians and Muslims will be a key element of his visit to the country.

jlw/tj (dpa, AFP, AP)

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