Saudi death case nurses wait on diplomacy

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The Independent Online
The two British nurses accused of murder in Saudi Arabia were said to be in "reasonably good spirits" over the weekend after a visit by British consulate staff to brief them on the latest diplomatic developments in their case.

It was the first official visit to Deborah Parry and Lucille McLauchlan since reports last week that the latter has been sentenced to 500 lashes plus a jail sentence.

Rumours that Ms Parry, 38, has been sentenced to death have not been confirmed.

A Foreign Office spokesman said both women - accused of killing colleague Yvonne Gilford - were "heartened" by information on the meeting last Friday between the Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook, and his Saudi equivalent Prince Saud.

The FO and Saudis are trying to facilitate behind the scenes deal involving the payment of "blood money" to Ms Gilford's family and charities in Australia in return for waiving the death penalty. However, the Saudis have been defending their legal system and stressing its "independence". Representatives of the nurses families are trying to avoid inflaming Saudi sensibilities as the women's fates hang in the balance. The Prince of Wales, who has extensive contacts in the Arab world, is also being kept informed of negotiations.

The reported pounds 750,000 involved is likely to come from the British defence industry, which is keen to ensure there is no lasting diplomatic squabble which could affect the pounds 2billion annual trade between the countries.