Pope Benedict XVI stressed his "deep respect" for Islam as he arrived in Jordan to begin a Middle East visit.

The Pope described religious freedom as a fundamental human right, and said he hoped the Catholic church could play a role in the Middle East peace process.

The eight-day tour - in which the Pope describes himself as a "pilgrim of peace" - is his first visit to the Middle East as pontiff.

After Jordan, his tour also takes him to Israel and the West Bank.

The pontiff was met at the airport by Jordan's King Abdullah, Queen Rania and Muslim and Christian leaders.

A Jordanian army band with bagpipes and drums played the Vatican and Jordanian national anthems before the Pope and King Abdullah inspected the honour guard.

The Pope's tour of the holy places of Christendom is aimed at encouraging the minority Christian community in the Middle East, and creating a better dialogue with Muslims and Jews.

'Death threats'

However, Jordanian Islamist leaders have demanded that he apologise for a speech in 2006 that linked Islam and violence.
BBC NEWS | Middle East | Pope begins Mid-East pilgrimage

More recently, the German-born Pope offended Jewish leaders by lifting the ex-communication of a Holocaust-denying bishop.

Many in Israel have also been angered by the proposed sainthood of Pope Pius XII, reviled by some Jews for his passive stance during the Holocaust.

There is a video on that link too.