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Pope to be guarded by Northern Ireland soldiers

By Lesley-Anne Henry

Soldiers from Northern Ireland are expected to provide security for the Pope during an official visit to Cyprus later this year.

A unit made up of regular and reserve troops from the Belfast-based 40 Signals Regiment are due to deploy to the Mediterranean island as part of the United Nations Peacekeeping Force next month.

They will be based in the capital city of Nicosia and are expected to play a major role in the two- day tour of the island by Pope Benedict XVI.

It will mark the first time soldiers from Northern Ireland have guarded a Pope.

British troops are sent to Cyprus as part of Operation Tosca to patrol a buffer zone known as the ‘Green Line’ which runs through Nicosia — the only divided capital city in the world — following the Turkish invasion in 1974

They are there to prevent a resurgence of fighting between Greeks and Turks.

Other sections of the Green Line are patrolled by Argentinian and Eastern European soldiers.

The regiment’s commanding officer, Colonel Stuart McConnell, said his soldiers were culturally and politically very highly trained and would be approaching the deployment with a very professional outlook.

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