Thursday, April 07, 2005
Anti-missile systems and NATO forces were being mustered and installed in and around Rome Wednesday, two days before Pope John Paul II's funeral. The Italian Air Force stepped up Fighter-Jet protection of the Capital to Guard against terrorist attacks, and U.S.-made F-16 Fighters will join in patrolling the skies above the Vatican, the Italian defense ministry told the Washington Times. A warship will also be on standby in the Mediterranean. Hawk anti-aircraft missile-defense systems also are being set up around Rome while a NATO AWACS surveillance aircraft with radar-coverage range of 210 miles have also been deployed. Italian authorities have set up tent cities at the Vatican, and there have been estimates Rome's population of about 2.6 million could triple in the run-up to Friday's funeral. President Bush and First Lady Laura Bush will be accompanied by former Presidents Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush at the funeral. Nearly 200 other world leaders will attend, including British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Prince Charles and Iranian President Mohammad Khatami.