- The Washington Times - Friday, January 5, 2001

From combined dispatches

ROME Nearly everyone fortunate enough to get a solo audience with the pope has no trouble paying attention. But not, according to Pope John Paul II, President Clinton.

In an interview published in Italian weekly magazine Oggi, the surgeon who operated on the pope in 1994 said the 80-year-old pontiff had revealed details of some relaxed conversations.

Dr. Gianfranco Fineschi said the pope told him:

"The only leader I did not manage to have a proper conversation with was Clinton. I was speaking, and he was looking at one of the walls, admiring the frescoes and the paintings.

"He was not listening to me."

Mr. Clinton had an audience with the pope in June 1994 in the ceremonial library of the Vatican's Apostolic Palace, where the pope and his visitors sit in straight-backed mahogany chairs amid ancient books and 15th-century furnishings.

Mr. Clinton's wife did not accompany him to the library, where frescoes depict angels of indeterminate sex wearing little more than angelic expressions.

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