Israeli President Moshe Katsav says he shook hands with the leaders of his country's arch-enemies, Syria and Iran, at the funeral of Pope John Paul in Rome. But the Israeli leader downplayed the diplomatic significance of the gesture.
Mr. Katsav was seated near Syrian President Bashar Assad, whose country is formally at war with Israel. He told Israeli media they exchanged smiles and handshakes.
President Katsav, who was born in Iran, said he also spoke in Farsi with Iranian President Mohammad Khatami about their common city of birth. Iran does not recognize the Jewish state.
Mr. Katsav told Israeli television the handshakes were a matter of politeness and have no political significance.
The official Syrian news agency echoed those comments.
Iranian President Mohammad Khatami strongly denied the handshake took place.