Sun Dec 26, 2004 10:39 AM ET

French Court to Rule on Aga Khan Divorce, Lawyer Says

PARIS (Reuters) - A French court has ruled it can hear the divorce application made by top racehorse owner and breeder the Aga Khan, his office said Sunday. The Aga Khan, 66, a British citizen, is the spiritual leader of the Shia Ismaili Muslim community of about 20 million followers.

In a Dec. 23 decision, the court said it would also rule on any financial maintenance due during the divorce proceedings, the statement quoted the Aga Khan's French lawyer Laurent Chambaz as saying.

The Aga Khan and his wife, whose maiden name was Gabriele Zu Leiningen, have been separated for over a year. The couple married in Gouvieux, France, in May 1998 and signed a prenuptial agreement on asset separation in France prior to the wedding, the Aga Khan's office said.

The couple have a four-year-old son, Prince Aly.

The Aga Khan's wife, a German national who lives in Berkshire, southern England, filed for divorce in Britain but a British court stayed those proceedings because of the earlier divorce application to a French court.