BY LUKE COPPEN AND BRUCE JOHNSTON IN ROME
DAVID TRIMBLE was poised to pay a "courtesy call" on the Pope this week.
Mr Trimble becomes the first leader of the Ulster Unionist Party to meet the leader of the Roman Catholic Church.
He was invited to Rome by Mikhail Gorbachev, the former Soviet President, who organised a two-day conference for Nobel Peace laureates, including John Hume, which was to begin yesterday.
Before the visit, Mr Trimble said: "I consider both the timing and the location appropriate in the light of the crisis facing Europe today."
The meeting seems set to anger members of the Orange Order.
But Mr Trimble said: "In so far as the opportunity arises, I will brief him on political progress and our continuing efforts to implement every aspect of the Belfast agreement, and so persuade those seeking to enter the democratic process and show clearly that terrorism is being left behind for good."