VATICAN CITY - Pope Francis will have nearly an entire day of bilateral meetings with world leaders attending the COP28 climate conference in Dubai next month, according to a programme released by the Vatican on Thursday.

It will be the first time in his papacy that the pope, 86, who is also a head of state, has so many high-level, one-on-one meetings with counterparts and others in such a short amount of time.

The pope's position on climate change is well known, so the event will give him an opportunity to connect in person with Arab and other world leaders to discuss the wars in Gaza and Ukraine.

Francis will be in Dubai from Dec. 1-3. The conference runs from Nov. 30 - Dec. 12.

After giving his speech to the conference on the morning of Dec. 2, the pope will have two sessions of private meetings for the rest of the day.

Organisers in Dubai have not yet given a list of top-level attendees and the Vatican did not say which one-on-one meetings had been confirmed.

Buckingham Palace has said King Charles will give the opening address. British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is expected to attend.

Two U.S. officials told Reuters last week that President Joe Biden was unlikely to attend but stressed that a final decision has not been made.

Last year, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, Jordan's King Abdullah II, and French President Emmanuel Macron were among the attendees.

Dozens of countries plan to push for the world's first deal to phase out CO2-emitting coal, oil and gas at the Dubai meeting.

It will be the first time a pontiff has been at the U.N. climate meeting since they began in 1995 and he is expected to drive home a recent appeal for action to curb global warming.

In a major document on Oct. 4, Francis appealed to climate change deniers and foot-dragging politicians to have a change of heart, saying they cannot gloss over human causes or deride science while the planet "may be nearing the breaking point".

The document, known as an Apostolic Exhortation and titled Laudate Deum (Praise God), was a follow-up to Francis' 2015 encyclical on the environment "Laudato Si" (Praise Be).

Laudate Deum was prompted by recent extreme weather events and mentioned the challenges facing COP28 several times.

Failure in Dubai, Francis said in the document, "will be a great disappointment and jeopardise whatever good has been achieved thus far".

(Reporting by Philip Pullella; Editing by Nick Macfie)