Plane Intercepted Over Rome

An Italian F-16 (search) fighter jet intercepted a suspicious plane heading to Rome's Ciampino airport (search) Friday, hours after the funeral of Pope John Paul II (search), and escorted it to a local military airport, an Air Force spokesman said.

The plane was forced to land at 4:20 p.m. local time after intelligence sources warned it was carrying a bomb, the spokesman said. He would not say whether the intelligence came from an Italian or a foreign source.

However, a team of paramilitary carabinieri officers inspected it and found nothing.

"There was no device on board. It was clean," the spokesman said on condition of anonymity.

The Learjet executive plane had left Belgrade, Serbia-Montenegro, and was headed toward Ciampino airport to pick up the president of Macedonia and his delegation and take them back to Skopje, the Air Force said.

Officials in Belgrade said on condition of anonymity that a plane sent to fly home the official Serbia-Montenegro delegation after the funeral was searched following a bomb threat and was later allowed to leave for Belgrade with its passengers. It was not immediately clear whether this was the plane that was intercepted.

The alert was set off by an anonymous phone call to Italian authorities that a bomb or an explosive was on the plane, Belgrade officials said.

The Air Force spokesman said the plane was cleared to leave the military airport and land at Ciampino, which was closed to routine civilian traffic Friday because of John Paul's funeral.

The incident occurred about three hours after the pope's funeral ended, while many dignitaries from 138 countries were departing. President Bush and his delegation, including former presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, left about two hours before the incident.