U.S. Cites 6 Nations for Religious Intolerance

WASHINGTON, D.C., OCT. 28, 2001 (Zenit.org).- In its annual report on religious freedom, the U.S. State Department cited six countries for what it called egregious violations, the Washington Post reported.

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The report, however, spared anti-terrorism allies such as Saudi Arabia, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan from special designation, the newspaper noted Saturday.

The State Department report cited Iran, China, Burma, North Korea, Sudan and Iraq as «countries of particular concern.» North Korea was newly added to the list. The report also cited the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, though it does not consider the Taliban a legitimate government.

The State Department said the underway war on terrorism did not affect which nations were named in its religious-freedom report, noting that it cited Iran, China and Sudan despite their cooperation in the current anti-terrorism campaign.

But human rights groups criticized the Bush administration for failing to designate Saudi Arabia, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan as «countries of particular concern» under the International Religious Freedom Act.

Moreover, human rights groups said, the report toned down the language used about Xinjiang, the western region of China where ethnic Uighurs, who are Muslim, have suffered harsh treatment under a campaign Beijing launched in April.

«Clearly, the administration doesn´t want to offend key allies in the coalition through excessive truth-telling,» Tom Malinowski, Washington advocacy director for Human Rights Watch, was quoted saying.

Designation of a country in the report gives the Bush administration the option of applying sanctions, but it does not require them. Sanctions are already in place for the countries cited by the new report, the Post said.

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