ROME - Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad would like Pope Benedict to visit Iran, Tehran's ambassador to the Vatican said on Wednesday.

"If the pope decides to come, we will welcome him in an excellent way, and, as far as the government is concerned, we will welcome him with enthusiasm," Ali Akbar Naseri told reporters.

Benedict has a standing invitation to visit the Islamic Republic but has so far not accepted.

The Vatican has criticized Ahmadinejad for calling for Israel to be wiped off the map. The pontiff has repeatedly encouraged dialogue to resolve differences over Iran's disputed nuclear program, which the West says is aimed at making nuclear bombs. Tehran denies that.

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