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Evangelical leader Billy Graham offers to help Romney

By Steve Holland

MONTREAT, North Carolina (Reuters) - Evangelical leader Billy Graham offered to help Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney on Thursday in what could prove to be a boost in getting evangelicals to turn out for the Republican in the November 6 election.

Graham, who will turn 94 next month, is one of the most recognized religious figures in the world and has been a spiritual adviser to a number of American presidents and political leaders. He has had talks with presidents going back to Harry Truman and President Barack Obama visited him in 2011.

Romney's motorcade made the trip up a winding mountain road to Graham's compound, where the former Massachusetts governor met with Graham and his son Franklin for about half an hour.

"What can I do for you?" Billy Graham asked Romney.

"Prayer is the most helpful thing you can do for me," Romney said.

Before the meeting ended, Graham led a prayer for Romney and said: "I'll do all I can to help you. And you can quote me on that."

Graham's support would be especially meaningful for Romney since some in the Christian right have been suspicious of Romney because of his Mormon religion. Despite any doubts, Christian conservatives seem energized for the opportunity to defeat the Democrat Obama in the November 6 election.

Romney made a comment to Graham that suggested he and Franklin, also a well-known evangelical leader and now head of the family's ministry, will try to turn out evangelical Christians for the Republican.

"What you're planning, what your son has shown me is going to be very, very helpful," Romney told Billy Graham. "And I appreciate that. It's going to be terrific."

A campaign official said among the topics discussed were religious freedom, religious persecution and growth of the Grahams' Christian ministry in China, Sudan and North Korea.

They also talked about Afghanistan. Franklin Graham's son has been deployed to Afghanistan three times.

(Editing By Alistair Bell and Bill Trott)

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