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Last Updated: Wednesday, 9 June, 2004, 08:58 GMT 09:58 UK
Qatar launches first constitution
Map of Qatar
The Gulf state of Qatar has issued its first written constitution, introducing a partially-elected legislative body.

The constitution will come into force in 2005 said the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani.

It keeps ultimate power in the hands of the emir but provides for a two-thirds elected advisory body.

The constitution - which received overwhelming support in a referendum last year - guarantees freedom of expression, assembly, and religion.

Parliamentary elections are expected next year.

The parliament will have 45 seats. One third will be appointed by the emir.

The emir has advocated greater political openness since he deposed his father in 1995.

In 1999 the country's first elections were held in which women were allowed to vote and stand for office.

In 2003 it appointed its first woman cabinet minister, Sheikha bint Ahmed al-Mahmoud, and also set up a human rights committee.

Last month, Qatar announced that it would soon allow workers to form trade unions and take strike action. The legislation, which is due to come into force later this year, bans under-16s from working, sets an eight-hour working day and declares equal rights for women.

Qatar is a staunch ally of the US, which has been trying to promote political, economic and social reforms throughout the Arab world.

The Qatari capital Doha hosted the coalition headquarters during the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.


SEE ALSO:
Qatar to allow unions and strikes
20 May 04  |  Middle East
Country profile: Qatar
15 Sep 03  |  Country profiles


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