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Netanyahu gives pope book by father on Inquisition

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VATICAN CITY (AP) - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday gave Pope Francis a book about the Inquisition in Spain written by his late father, an expert on the Catholic Church's forced conversion and expulsion of Jews in the 15th century.

Netanyahu presented a Spanish translation of the 1995 book, "The Origins of the Inquisition," to Francis during their 25-minute private audience. He also gave the pope a large silver menorah.

Netanyahu's father, Ben-Zion Netanyahu, was an Israeli historian who died last year. A Zionist activist who opposed partitioning Palestine between Arabs and Jews, he was best known in academic circles for his research into the medieval Inquisition against the Jews of Spain.

"To his Holiness Pope Franciscus, a great shepherd of our common heritage," the Israeli leader wrote on the inside front page of the book.

Netanyahu joked that while his father spoke perfect Spanish as a result of his research "my Spanish doesn't exist." The Israeli leader and Argentine pope spoke through a translator.

Francis thanked him and presented Netanyahu with a small bronze plaque of St. Paul.

A Vatican statement said discussions between the Israeli and Vatican delegations focused on restarting Israeli-Palestinian peace talks and Francis' upcoming pilgrimage to the Holy Land. While no dates have been set, the trip is expected sometime in May and is also expected to include a stop in Jordan.

Later Monday, Netanyahu met with Italian Premier Enrico Letta and warned that Iran represented a threat to Europe and the entire world if it acquires nuclear weapons.

Letta, for his part, announced that Italy had set aside funding to build a Holocaust museum in Ferrara, and invited Netanyahu to join him for the inauguration.

(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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