VATICAN CITY, JUNE 3, 2008 ( Benedict XVI isn't hiding behind a full schedule to avoid meeting with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, reports the Vatican.

For several days media reports have speculated on whether or not the Pope would meet with Iran's president this week, who arrived in Rome today to attend the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) summit on food security.

An announcement by the Vatican that the Pontiff wouldn't meet privately with any of the world leaders attending the conference led some to suggest the Holy Father denied all requests in order to be able to also deny Ahmadinejad's.

The Vatican press office released a statement today clarifying that the Holy Father simply couldn't accept all the requests, and that this practice is one the Vatican has been following since 2006.

Sources from the Vatican assured ZENIT that the audience with Ahmadinejad, or any other leader in Rome for the conference, was never considered due to the sheer number of requests made.

"With reference to certain journalistic suppositions that have been circulating in the media over the last few days," the statement said, "Benedict XVI was not able to respond positively to the requests for private audience he received from heads of state and government who have come to Rome" for the FAO conference.

It continued, "This was because of the number of requests, the limited time available, and prior commitments. In this context, the Cardinal Secretary of State has written personally to each of the leaders concerned, informing them of the Holy Father's disappointment at the impossibility, on this occasion, of meeting them personally, and reaffirming his willingness to receive them on a future occasion.

"It must, furthermore, be remembered that this is in no way a new practice because, as of April 2006, the Secretariat of State had opportunely informed the diplomatic missions to the Holy See that it would be difficult to accept such requests for audience on the occasion of international conferences and congresses."

Argentina's President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, however, met today with Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Pope's secretary of state.