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US President Barack Obama has weighed in on a new law that allows Shia Muslims in American-occupied Afghanistan to rape their wives, and in doing so may have signaled a dramatic shift in US foreign policy.

"I think this law is abhorrent," Obama told reporters in Strasbourg Saturday morning. But after that initial statement, the President began to demur: "We think that it's very important for us to be sensitive to local culture," he noted before balancing that position by adding, "We also think that there are certain basic principals that all nations should uphold, and respect for women and respect for their freedom and integrity is an important principal." He explained that a communication has been sent to President Karzai voicing the objections of himself and other world leaders.

"But I also want people to understand," he went on, "that the first reason we are there is to root out al Qaeda so that they cannot attack members of the Alliance." Obama insisted that the goals of human rights and self protection "are not contradictory," but some are already calling the statements, in context, a repudiation of a major component of the Bush doctrine.

The law, signed by Afghan president Karzai states that:

"Unless the wife is ill or has any kind of illness that intercourse could aggravate, the wife is bound to give a positive response to the sexual desires of her husband."

It also, many believe, implies the legalization of child marriage.



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