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.

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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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