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UPDATED: 12:00, February 10, 2007
Chirac to call legislative session to abolish death penalty
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French President Jacques Chirac has decided to call a joint legislative session on Feb. 19 to vote on an amendment to inscribe the abolition of the death penalty in the constitution, the president's office announced on Friday.

The Senators and representatives of the National Assembly are to meet in Versailles, west of Paris, for the vote, the announcement said.

Chirac, who has given a clear signal to step down in May, said early last month that he was devoted to call a legislative session to vote on several changes to the French constitution before the end of the current parliamentary session in late February.

One proposed change would inscribe France's abolition of the death penalty in the current constitution.

Although France banned capital punishment with a 1981 law, Chirac has said he wants to go further by adding a single line to the constitution: "No one can be sentenced to the death penalty."

The French government submitted a draft bill on the proposed changes to the constitution to the parliament last month, demanding the inscription of the abolition of the death penalty in the constitution. The bill was approved by the Senate and the National Assembly recently.

Under the current constitution, a bill to change the constitution can only take effect after it is ratified by a national referendum, which follows the parliament's approval of the bill.

The alternative lies in the hands of the president, who can call a joint legislative session instead of a national referendum. The bill must get three fifth of the legislators' support to pass.

France's official data showed that altogether 78 countries all over the world uses the death penalty at present.

Source: Xinhua

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