LUXEMBOURG (AFP) — The Luxembourg parliament on Thursday supported a controversial bill to legalise euthanasia, which the Catholic head of state, Grand Duke Henri, is refusing to back.
The move came shortly after Pope Benedict XVI spoke of his "deep concern" over the proposed law as he met with Luxembourg's new ambassador Paul Duhr at the Vatican.
"I would like to take the opportunity of our meeting to express my deep concern about the text of the law on euthanasia and assisted suicide currently being debated by (Luxembourg's) parliament," said the pope.
At the end of a five-hour debate, the Luxembourg deputies approved the bill by 31 to 26 with three abstentions.
Before Luxembourg can become the third EU country to allow some form of euthanasia, after Belgium and the Netherlands, there are still some political and constitutional hurdles to be jumped.
Thursday's vote was the first reading as the bill has been substantially amended since it was initially approved by parliament in February, at the request of the upper house state council.
Once the parliament definitively backs the legislation, probably next March, it will be up to Grand Duke Henri to sign it into law.
However the Catholic monarch prompted a constitutional crisis earlier this month when he said his conscience would not allow him to approve and promulgate the law.
A recent survey found that a large majority of Luxembourgers disapprove of the Grand Duke's threat to block the euthanasia bill and are in favour of reducing his powers.
Last week the Luxembourg lawmakers overwhelmingly adopted a bill at first reading to reduce the head of state's powers in a move that would give the tiny country's sovereign a purely ceremonial role.
If the reform is voted through in a second reading, approving laws will be the responsibility of the parliament and the minister in charge of the matter.
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