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Pope brings together Colombian rivals to discuss rebel peace deal

Pope Francis talks to Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos, center, and former president Alvaro Uribe, left, during a meeting at the Vatican Picture by L'Osservatore Romano/Pool photo via AP

Pope Francis has brought Colombia's president and his main political opponent together to discuss the country's rebel peace deal.

The Vatican distributed a photo of the three men sitting at Pope Francis's desk on Friday.

Pope Francis invited President Juan Manuel Santos and Mr Santos's right-wing predecessor in the presidency, Alvaro Uribe, to discuss the country's peace accord with rebels.

Mr Uribe, the country's most popular politician, led the campaign against Mr Santos's deal with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia that resulted in the accord's shock rejection in an October referendum.

Mr Santos then introduced several changes to appease his critics and even sat down for a meeting with Mr Uribe for the first time in six years.

But he still failed to win suppoprt from his former boss.

There have been attempts in the past to bring the two men together, including one last year by the Obama administration, and there is no indication the Vatican can succeed where others have failed.

But Pope Francis, history's first Latin American Pope, has insisted that dialogue is the only way forward.

Under his papacy, the Vatican also helped facilitate talks between the US and Cuba that ended a half-century of conflict.

Mr Uribe said he was attending the meeting out of respect for Pope Francis.

He gave no indication that he was ready to make amends with Mr Santos or drop his argument that the accord promotes impunity by sparing rebel commanders time in jail and instead awarding them seats in congress.

Still, the Vatican has considerable leverage in the staunchly Roman Catholic country, especially among Mr Uribe's conservative base, and the Pope has been careful not to appear to be taking sides in the peace process.

The Pope has held off travelling to Colombia until the peace process is complete, although Mr Santos has said he expects Pope Francis to visit in early next year.

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