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Soviets were behind 1981 plot to kill pope { March 2 2006 }

Original Source Link: (May no longer be active)
   http://www.nytimes.com/2006/03/02/international/europe/02cnd-pope.html

http://www.nytimes.com/2006/03/02/international/europe/02cnd-pope.html

March 2, 2006
Italy Concludes Soviets Were Behind 1981 Plot to Kill Pope
By IAN FISHER
ROME, March 2 Citing new photographic analysis, an Italian parliamentary commission has concluded that top Soviet leaders were behind the failed plot to kill Pope John Paul II in 1981.

"This commission holds, beyond any reasonable doubt that the leadership of the Soviet Union took the initiative to eliminate Pope Karol Wojtyla," John Paul's given name, the commission wrote in a preliminary report that is still subject to approval by the Italian Parliament.

The report has no legal bearing, but reopens a central unanswered question in the Cold War: whether Bulgarian secret agents, working on behalf of the Soviets, played a role in the shooting on May 13, 1981, in St. Peter's Square, which gravely wounded the pope.

The new claim revolves largely around two new analyses of photographs of crowds at St. Peter's Square that day. The analyses show decisively, the report says, that a Bulgarian, Serghei Ivanov Antonov, the former director of Balkan Air, was in the square at the time of the shooting and had thus lied when he said he was in his office at the time.

Mr. Antonov and two other Bulgarians were cleared in 1986 by an Italian court of hiring the Turkish gunman Mehmet Ali Agca, who was convicted of attempted murder and served until 2000 in Italian prison for the shooting.

The report claims that the Soviet leadership saw John Paul as a threat because of his support for the Solidarity trade union, which had worked to undermine Soviet control in his native Poland.

The head of the parliamentary commission, Paolo Guzzanti, a senator in Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's Forza Italia party, was quoted in the Italian press as saying that he reopened the issue based on John Paul's last book, "Memory and Identity: Conversations Between Millenniums." In the book, released before his death last year, John Paul stated that he did not believe Mr. Agca was responsible, that "someone else planned it."

The conclusions about the assassination attempt are part of a larger report on breaches to Italy's security during the cold war that came to light after Vasili Mitrokhin, a senior Russian archivist, defected to Britain in 1992.


Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company


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