VATICAN CITY (AP) -- Pope John Paul II will visit the Holy Land in March, a Vatican official said Wednesday in the first confirmation of the long-awaited trip.

The trip will take place during the last 10 days of March and probably include stops in Jerusalem and Nazareth, Archbishop Crescenzio Sepe said at a news conference on Vatican plans for the millennium celebrations.John Paul was invited by both Israeli and Palestinian authorities and will be expected to visit Jerusalem and Bethlehem.

But the proposed stop in Nazareth was put in doubt recently by Vatican complaints over plans there to build a mosque near a Christian shrine.

The Israeli Foreign Ministry welcomed the Vatican's announcement.

"We all hope that this visit is going to reinvigorate and support the spirit of peace and reconciliation between religions and the peoples of the Middle East," said Effie Ben-Matityahu, a ministry spokesman.

The pope also was considering a stop in Iraq during his planned millennium tour of Biblical sites.