Tehran: Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad who is on a visit to Venezuela on Monday expressed respect for Pope Benedict XVI, saying that the pontiff had "modified" his remarks that offended Muslims worldwide.
"We respect the pope and all those interested in peace and justice," Ahmadinejad told a news conference before departing Venezuela.
Ahmadinejad struck a more conciliatory tone than that expressed by a government spokesman earlier and the country's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
In Tehran, the Iranian government said the pope had not been sufficiently contrite and called on the 79-year-old pontiff to admit he had made a mistake.
Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei blamed the pope's remarks on an alleged US-Israeli conspiracy that he claimed was designed to sow conflict between religions.
At the end of a two-day visit to Venezuela, Ahmadinejad also said there was a contradiction between the Christian values of Western nations and the wars those countries have waged.
"All the wars of the 20th century have been caused by European countries and the United States," he said.
"A part of the American government say they are Christians, but they are not Christians, because Christ like all the prophets of God was a prophet of justice and peace for humanity," he said.
In the United States, President Bush said that Pope Benedict was sincere in his apology for comments on Islam that have sparked outrage in the Muslim world, a US official said.
Bush gave his assessment in talks with Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi in New York ahead of a UN General Assembly session on Tuesday.