Vatican says conclave could start before March 15

ROME (REUTERS) - The Vatican said on Saturday that the conclave to choose the successor to Pope Benedict could start before March 15 if enough cardinals are in Rome to elect him.

Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said Church rules which regulate the timing of conclaves could be "interpreted"differently this time because of the unique circumstances of Pope Benedict's historic resignation.

He had said earlier that the conclave would start between March 15-20 according to existing rules.

But he said on Saturday that events could move more quickly since the Church was dealing with an announced resignation and not a sudden papal death.