By BRUCE JOHNSTON
AMERICAN, French and German authorities are holding back vital evidence over the attempt on the Pope's life on 13 May, 1981, the Italian magistrate spearheading investigations in Rome claimed. this week.
In an interview, Ferdinand° Imposimato said French, US and German intelligence avoided helping Italian magistrates probe the so-called "Bulgarian connection", because they were afraid of angering Moscow.
"They did not want to directly accuse Moscow," Mr Imposimato said.
"There is no question that the West has been cowardly over the affair. Moscow inspired fear," he told the French weekly Le Point.
Even today, he said, the same governments continued "to deny the evidence and uphold the 'lone-wolf' theory, because they are afraid of back-tracking and losing credibility."
Mr Imposimato said that France, which warned the Vatican of a Bulgarian plot as early as 1979, was more involved than other countries because a Bulgarian called Mantorov left Italy and took refuge in France shortly before the attack in St Peter's Square.
Mantorov "informed the French secret service of the details of the operation," he said.
But despite this and although the Bulgarian was well-known, Alexandre De Marenches, the then head of French intelligence unit SDECE, "did not cooperate at all with Italian justice."
The Pope was shot by a Turkish terrorist, whom he later forgave on a visit to his prison cell.