Assassination plot trails pope in Asia

JUST hours before Pope John Paul II arrived in Papua New Guinea yesterday, police in the South Pacific nation launched a massive hunt for two men suspected of plotting to assassinate him, a secret-service officer said.

Police ordered the manhunt two hours before the pope arrived to a raucous welcome by 30,000 people.

The two wanted men were suspected of being involved in a plot uncovered in Manila last week at the start of the pope's four-nation Asia-Pacific tour. The pope is presently in Papua New Guinea after visiting the Philippines. From there he will go on to Australia and Sri Lanka.

In Colombo, Sri Lankan Catholics prayed for his safety as thousands prepared to travel to attend his Mass. A security operation has been mounted for his visit, which has been marred by Buddhist anger at his calling their religion an ``atheistic system'' in his recent book. Although the pope said before leaving for the trip that he had ``profound respect'' for the religion, Sri Lanka's Buddhists say they will boycott his visit unless he apologizes.

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