A new State Department report lists a number of Asian nations among those countries which are most restrictive of religious freedoms, with China, North Korea, Vietnam, and Burma listed as "countries of particular concern." Countries whose governments systematically restrict religious liberties receive this classification, and while President Bush is authorized to impose political and economic sanctions against countries on the list, Secretary of State Colin Powell has stated that the US will instead use diplomacy to encourage nations to respect religious freedom.
Other "nations of concern" are Cuba, Eritrea, Iran, Sudan, and - for the first time in this annual series of reports on religious liberty - Saudi Arabia, a major US ally in the Middle east. VOA News has more. AP and the Religion News Service focus on the claims made against Saudi Arabia. Read the State Department report and a transcript of Wednesday's press conference with Secretary Powell here.