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Pope John Paul II applauds Chernobyl closure
    The Holy Father has described this weekend's closure of the notorious Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine as a 'significant step toward peace'.
    On 26 April 1986, a huge explosion ripped the plant, the worst nuclear accident in history. Fourteen years later, the Ukrainian government has decided to close the plant, in line with the 1995 Memorandum of Understanding signed in Ottawa.
    In a message to Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma, the Pope said he joins "all those who in your country and throughout the world are pleased to see this significant action."
    The Pontiff, who will visit this largely Orthodox country in June, said that "in this Jubilee year, in which we celebrate 2000 years since the birth of Christ, savior of man, it is encouraging that your country has taken a significant step toward peace, thus offering your fellowmen throughout the world a sign of hope for a safer and more fraternal world."
    During a press conference on Friday, Nina Kovalska, Ukrainian ambassador to the Vatican, said that the closure of the plant is 'a symbol of hope' for Ukrainian people. But it will not have 'immediate effects', she noted, adding that closure requires 'an extremely complicated technological process, which will last at least 30 years'.