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In Brief: Afghanistan's hardline religious heads block legislation for women's rights

Conservative religious politicians in Afghanistan yesterday blocked legislation aimed at strengthening provisions for women's freedoms, arguing that parts of it violate Islamic principles and encourage disobedience.

The fierce opposition highlights how tenuous women's rights remain a dozen years after the ousting of the hardline Taliban regime, whose strict interpretation of Islam once kept Afghan women virtual prisoners in their homes.

Khalil Ahmad Shaheedzada, a conservative politician for Herat province, said the legislation was withdrawn shortly after being introduced in parliament because of an uproar by religious parties who said parts of the law are un-Islamic.

SUPPORT FOR BRITAIN'S UKIP GROWING

Support for the UK Independence Party has reached a record 19 per cent, according to a poll which saw both Labour and the Tories losing ground. Labour was down three points to 35 per cent, the Conservatives down one to 29 per cent and the Liberal Democrats were unchanged on eight per cent.

The ComRes poll for the Sunday Mirror and Independent on Sunday found support for Nigel Farage's party was up four per cent since the last survey a month ago and gives UKIP the highest share recorded by any pollster.

FOUR KILLED IN IRAQ SECTARIAN ATTACK

Suspected Sunni Muslim militants killed four state-backed Sunni fighters in Iraq yesterday, apparently viewing them as collaborators with the Shi'ite-led government of a nation plagued by sectarian hatred.

Sunni-Shi'ite tensions in Iraq have been amplified by the conflict between mostly Sunni rebels and President Bashar al-Assad's Alawite-dominated forces in neighbouring Syria. The four "Sahwa" militia fighters were killed in an attack on their headquarters on the outskirts of Garma, 9km east of Falluja.

NORTH KOREA TEST FIRES THREE MISSILES

North Korea fired three short-range guided missiles into its eastern waters yesterday, a South Korean official said. It routinely tests such missiles, but the latest launches came during a period of tentative diplomacy aimed at easing tensions.

The North fired two missiles yesterday morning and another in the afternoon, South Korean Defence Ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok said.

ITALIANS PROTEST AGAINST AUSTERITY

Thousands of people protested in Rome yesterday against austerity policies and high unemployment, urging new prime minister Enrico Letta to focus on creating jobs to help pull the country out of recession.

"We hope that this government will finally start listening to us because we are losing our patience," said Enzo Bernardis, who joined the sea of protesters. Italy is stuck in its longest recession since 1970, and youth unemployment is at about 38 per cent.

HOLLANDE APPROVES GAY MARRIAGE LAW

French President Francois Hollande has signed a law authorising gay marriage and adoption by same-sex couples, after months of nationwide protests and debate.

His signature means the first gay marriages may be celebrated in France within about 10 days.

DARING DORIS, 99, ABSEILS FOR CHARITY

A British pensioner has celebrated her 99th birthday by abseiling from the top of an 11-storey building. Doris Long, from Hampshire, took part in the fundraising event off the 110ft high University of Portsmouth's Mercantile House in aid of The Rowans Hospice. It is the 13th major abseil for Ms Long.

Irish Independent