A MAN has been raped after being forced to go to a well known gay haunt in Edinburgh.

Detectives investigating the sex attack on a 32-year-old homosexual at Calton Hill, which is also a popular sightseeing spot, say at least two assailants were involved.

The victim, who lives locally, had earlier been drinking in bars known to be popular with the gay community.

He was making his way home when he was confronted by his attackers in Royal Terrace. They compelled him to go up Calton Hill nearby, where the sexual assault took place.

Yesterday, police officers were liaising with representatives of the capital's lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community, over the rape of the man which took place around 2am on Sunday.

Detective Sergeant Simon Kinghorn, of Lothian and Borders Police, said the victim had been very traumatised. ''We are offering him support and letting him know about a number of agencies he can turn to.

''This is an appalling crime, whatever the gender of the victim. To be violated like this is a terrible experience for anyone.''

The police said they were keen to speak to a man seen in the area who was described as in his early 30s, 5ft 7ins, of medium build, and with fair straight hair. He was said to be wearing a light peach shirt and dark trousers.

Mr Peter Reid, of Men Against Sexual Abuse, a charity which deals with victims of male rape in Scotland, said incidents of this nature were becoming more frequent. He praised Scots police forces for their work in dealing with the crime.

Mr Andrew O'Donnell, who heads a safety forum for the LGBT community, said the chances were that the attackers were heterosexual.

''Rape has very little to do with sexuality and more to do with power, domination, and humiliation,'' he said.

''What goes on in the whole Calton area is well known and it is easy to target. This man may have been picked out because he was gay, that does not mean to say his attackers were.''

The safety forum is due tomorrow to unveil its new action plan based on two years of research into attacks on gay and transgender people in the city. It will give advice on safety at home and in public places, and will pinpoint trouble flashpoints.

In the past, Calton Hill has been the scene of attacks on gay people. Three years ago, after a wave of incidents, tourists were told to stay away or risk becoming innocent victims.

Police stepped up foot patrols around Calton Hill. Officers handed out leaflets and visited local gay bars to warn homosexuals not to frequent the area in the evenings and early mornings.

In 1997, a man was sentenced to six years and three months' detention for savagely beating a Japanese tourist who had followed a recommendation in a guide book to view Edinburgh's night sky from Calton Hill.

The Osaka hotel barman, who was not a homosexual, went there at 2am to take photographs when the 20-year-old, accompanied by a 15-year-old youth, attacked him. The court heard the 20 year-old had gone to Calton Hill because it was known as a meeting place for homosexuals, whom he saw as easy targets to attack and rob.

Last year, in a call for a San Francisco-style gay quarter to be set up in Edinburgh, Mr Barnaby Miln, a former aide to the Archbishop of Canterbury, described Calton Hill as among ''the best cruising areas in the world for gays''.