Peres in Italy for talks with top gov't officials, pope

President Shimon Peres met Wednesday with his Italian counterpart in Rome as he began five days of talks, including with top government officials and the pope, amid a flurry of international diplomacy on the Middle East. Following the talks with President Giorgio Napolitano, Peres was scheduled to meet with Premier Romano Prodi, opposition leaders and members of Rome's Jewish Community. The elder Israeli statesman and Nobel Peace Prize laureate took office in July and his talks with Italian officials were expected to focus on ways to revive the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Rome has taken on a greater role in the Middle East since Italy became the major contributor to the UN peacekeeping force in Lebanon charged with enforcing a cease-fire between Israel and Hezbollah guerrillas.