RIYADH - Saudi judges who enforce sharia (Islamic law) have condemned what they see as "the stench of Western ideas" in sweeping legal reforms pushed by King Abdullah, underscoring friction between government modernizers and religious hardliners.

In a letter to Justice Minister Mohammed al-Issa seen by Reuters, eight judges complained about foreign trainers who shave their beards contrary to purist Islam, t he minister's meetings with diplomats of "infidel" states and plans to let women practice as lawyers.

The authenticity of the letter, which did not directly criticize either the king or Issa, was confirmed by a source in the Justice Ministry who said it was sent late last month.

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