Chile leader to sign divorce law

Chile's president Ricardo Lagos is to publish a new divorce law despite stern opposition from the Catholic Church.

The law, which was approved by Congress in March, is set to take effect in six months' time.

Until now, Chilean couples could only have a marriage annulled by a civil registrar - but this did not give them the rights of a legal divorce.

Chile has long been one of only three countries in the world where divorce is banned.

The Roman Catholic church has attacked the new legislation, saying it would threaten the family and undermine the sanctity of marriage.

Under the new law, a couple may divorce a year after separating if both partners agree to split up. If one partner disagrees, a divorce is allowed after three years.

Tens of thousands of separated Chileans are expected to file divorce applications once the new legislation comes into effect.

Malta and the Philippines are the only other countries that currently do not have a divorce law.