Kazakstan boosts security for Pope
Kazakstan will take 'unprecedented' security measures for this weekend's visit by Pope John Paul II, in the wake of the attacks on the United States and tension throughout Central Asia, the foreign minister said Monday.
"The security measures will be unprecedented in connection with the recent terrorist attacks in the United States," Kazak Foreign Minister Bulat Iskakov was quoted by the Interfax news agency as saying.
He said 2400 Interior Ministry police and troops would guard the Kazak capital, Astana — a new capital with just 350,000 residents — for the visit.
He added that $A2.4 million had been earmarked to prepare this former Soviet republic for the pope's trip.
The Vatican said plans were still going ahead for the pope's weeklong trip starting Saturday to Kazakstan and Armenia, despite security concerns after last week's terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.
Central Asian leaders are bracing for possible US retaliatory attacks on Afghanistan, which borders three former Soviet states: Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. Astana is in northern Kazakstan, about 1200 kilometres north of Afghanistan.