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Afghan code 'a step back for women'

Afghanistan's president has endorsed a "code of conduct" issued by an influential council of clerics that activists say represents a giant step backwards for women's rights in the country.

President Hamid Karzai has endorsed the Ullema Council's document, which allows husbands to beat wives under certain circumstances and encourages segregation of the sexes.

The move is seen as part of his outreach to insurgents like the Taliban. The US and Mr Karzai hope that the Taliban can be brought into negotiations to end the country's decade-long war.

Activists say they are worried that gains made by women since 2001 may be lost in the process.

Mr Karzai insisted the document was in keeping with Islam and did not restrict women.

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