Germany's Central Council of Jews welcomed Thursday a bill that will affirm the legality of infant male circumcision, following months of debate after a regional court verdict declaring it unlawful bodily harm.

Religious groups have now seen a draft of the bill, which Chancellor Angela Merkel's cabinet is set to approve on Wednesday next week.

The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reported that the bill would permit religious officials such as a Jewish mohel, or circumciser, to perform the procedure in the first six months of a boy's life, provided "appropriate and effective anaesthesia" was used.

The Central Council President, Dieter Graumann, called the planned
bill a signal that Jews and Muslims, who both practice circumcision, remained welcome in Germany.

Jewish groups had previously been concerned that babies might be
required to be anaesthetised during the procedure.

"We are pleased that Jewish rules, and by implication Jewish life, will not be driven into a state of illegality," Graumann said.

Merkel has committed herself to introducing legislation in parliament to confirm that the tradition is legal. The first details emerged last month when a draft was circulated to the federal states for comment.

A court in Cologne ruled in June that a Muslim doctor who circumcised a boy had committed a crime. Operations then ceased in many parts of Germany with doctors fearing they too would be prosecuted, although the verdict was not binding on other courts.

The ruling upset Jewish and Islamic groups around the world.

Anti-circumcision groups have criticized the bill. A children's aid group, Deutsche Kinderhilfe, accused the government of acting blindly and denying young children their legal rights.

"It is creating more problems than it is solving," said the group's chairman, Georg Ehrmann, who was critical that the bill would recognize an anaesthetic skin-cream as a sufficient painkiller.