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Saturday, 21 March, 1998, 16:01 GMT
Pope calls for human rights in Nigeria

Pope John Paul the Second has begun a three-day visit to Nigeria by calling for the promotion of justice and respect for human rights.

In his first speech --with the country's military leader, General Sani Abacha, standing alongside him -- the Pope said Nigerians faced the task of building a society that respected the rights and freedoms of all its members.

Large crowds lined the road from the airport to the capital, Abuja, where the Pope will have a private meeting with General Abacha later in the day.

The BBC correspondent in Abuja says Roman Catholics in Nigeria hope the Pope will persuade the military government to embark on reforms -- where political pressure from the international community has failed.

Limited international sanctions were imposed on Nigeria three years ago after the execution of several human rights activists

From the newsroom of the BBC World Service

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