Pope Francis and UN leader Ban Ki-moon meet

Pope Francis, right, greets UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on the occasion of their private audience in the pontiff's library at the VaticanAP

Conflicts and the Millennium Development Goals were among the issues discussed by Pope Francis and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in a meeting at the Vatican today.

According to a Vatican press communique, they spoke about current conflicts and serious humanitarian emergencies in Syria, the Korean peninsula, and the African continent.

International attention has been focused on the Korean peninsula following weeks of aggressive rhetoric from North Korea.

In Syria, civil war has been going on for two years and according to the UN, the death toll stands at 70,000.

Conflicts in Mali and Sudan on the African continent have triggered humanitarian crises and forced thousands of tens of thousands of people to leave their homes.

The Vatican said the meeting took place "to express the appreciation that the Holy See has for that organisation's central role in the preservation of peace in the world, in the promotion of the common good of humanity, and in the defence of fundamental human rights".

It was the first meeting between Pope Francis and the UN Secretary General.

Mr Ban told reporters afterwards that the meeting had been "uplifting" and "hopeful".

"Pope Francis is a man of peace and purpose. He is a voice for the voiceless," he said.

They also discussed the need to "advance social justice and accelerate work to meet the Millennium Development Goals", he said. "This is vital if we are to meet the millennium promise for the world's poorest."

The Millennium Development Goals were agreed by world leaders in 2000 and set the international community the challenge of eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, achieving universal primary education, improving maternal health, and reducing child mortality among other goals by 2015.

"I was especially privileged to meet Pope Francis as we mark 1,000 days to the deadline for the Millennium Development Goals," Mr Ban added.

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