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Saudi rape update

Feeling the heat at the Annapolis, Md., Mideast Peace Conference, the Saudi Arabian foreign minister has announced that a sentence of 200 lashes against a Saudi woman who was raped will be reviewed. She was also sentenced to six months in prison.

  What Prince Saud al-Faisal, the foreign minister, said in Annapolis was 180 degrees from statements made over the weekend in which the kingdom's justice ministry condemned the woman, who had been gang raped by seven men, as a "loose woman."

The ministry, in an attempt to neutralize the outrage from Western nations over the sentence, had called the rape victim an adulteress who had purportedly admitted cheating on her husband. The ministry noted that she was in a car with a man who was not a relative, a crime under Saudi law.

President Bush did not ask King Abdullah to rescind sentence, as demanded by Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Rodham Clinton. But Bush's press secretary, Dana Perino, condemned the sentence in unusually harsh language.

"I don't think it matters if you're a female or a male," Perino said. "I think that the situation is very discouraging and outrageous."

-- Douglas Turner

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