VATICAN CITY (AP) _ Pope John Paul II will make a three-day trip to Egypt next month, the first of his planned pilgrimages to religious sites in the Middle East, the Vatican said today.

He will stop in Cairo and then visit a monastery at the foot of Mount Sinai on the Feb. 24-26 trip, the Vatican said.

The trip will come before a major pilgrimage to the Holy Land in late March that will include stops in Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian territories.

It will be a test of the stamina of the frail, 79-year-old pope, coming at the start of celebrations in the Vatican's Holy Year.

The stop at Mount Sinai is one of a series of pilgrimages the pope has planned to make in the new millennium, trips he says are purely for religious reasons.

He had hoped to begin his trips with a stop at what is believed to be the birthplace of the biblical patriarch Abraham in Iraq, but the Vatican dropped the plan after Baghdad said it could not organize the visit.

The trip, the first by a pope to Egypt, will include meetings with President Hosni Mubarak and Coptic Christian and Muslim leaders.

From Cairo, he will travel to Mount Sinai, said to be the place where Moses received the Ten Commandments. It is the site of a famous Greek Orthodox monastery, St. Catherine, where one of the oldest manuscripts of the New Testament was found.