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From Kazakhstan, Pope calls for world peace

Pope John Paul II made an impassioned call for peace from Central Asia, in the hope that the attacks against the United States will not "lead to a deepening of divisions," and that religion will never be a reason for conflict.

Addressing 50,000 people in the Kazakh capital's Square of the Motherland, three-quarters of whom were Muslims, the Pope called on Christians and Muslims to raise an "intense prayer" for peace to God, as the US plans its response to the 11 September terrorist attacks.

"I wish to make an earnest call to everyone, Christians and the followers of other religions, to work together to build a world without violence, a world that loves life, and grows in justice and solidarity," the Pope said at the end of the Mass, reading from a text that was written at the last moment.

According to local sources, as the Pope spoke, US military planes had already landed in Uzbekistan, the country that separates Kazakhstan from Afghanistan.

In the presence of Grand Mufti Absattat Derbassalie, the highest Muslim authority, and Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev, the Holy Father added: "We must not let what has happened lead to a deepening of divisions. Religion must never be used as a reason for conflict."

"From this place, I invite both Christians and Muslims to raise an intense prayer to the One, Almighty God, whose children we all are, that the supreme good of peace may reign in the world," the Holy Father added.

On the eve of the papal visit, the Kazakh mufti asked the country's eight million Muslims to welcome the Pope, the "great guest", with open arms, and he encouraged them to participate in Sunday's Mass.