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DIPLOMAT OPTIMISTIC NURSE CAN BE SPARED BEHEADING

The British foreign minister said Friday he was "hopeful" he could prevent the beheading of a British nurse and the flogging of another following a "useful meeting" with his Saudi counterpart.

Deborah Parry, 38, has been sentenced to death for the 1996 stabbing death in Saudi Arabia of Yvonne Gilford. Lucille McLauchlan, 31, also a British nurse, was convicted of being an accessory and sentenced to eight years in prison and 500 lashes. British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook has been trying to prevent the nurses from being beheaded or flogged, penalties considered extreme and unusual in Britain.

"It was a useful meeting, it was a good atmosphere," Cook said after meeting Prince Saud al-Faisal. He said the Saudi minister "indicated that legal proceedings still had some way to go but he did appreciate and understand the concern."

Under Saudi Arabia's strict Islamic law, the punishment for murder is death, generally public beheading. But the victim's family can have the sentence commuted to prison, usually in exchange for money. Lawyers for Ms. Parry are negotiating a paid settlement with Gilford's family in exchange for clemency.

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