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China, Saudi Arabia cited by US for violating religious freedom

[JURIST] The US Department of State [website] on Tuesday is releasing its annual list of states considered to be serious violators of religious freedoms, opening the named states to potential sanctions. Officials say countries deemed to be "of particular concern" include China, Eritrea, Iran, Myanmar, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Vietnam. Uzbekistan [JURIST news archive; USCIRF press release] is notably said to be missing from the list, despite the recommendation of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) [commission website; annual recommendations, PDF], a congressionally-funded, bipartisan agency. An unnamed official said Uzbekistan was not included because "it would look too political," and the Bush Administration feared the appearance it was in retaliation for Uzbekistan's eviction of US troops from an air force base in the country. A 180-day waiver from sanctions was issued for Saudi Arabia by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in September because she wanted "to allow additional time for the continuation of discussions leading to progress on important religious freedom issues." Reuters has more. Though the 2005 list is not yet available online, the State Department has previous International Religious Freedom reports.

4:36 PM ET - The 2005 Annual Report on International Religious Freedom [index] is now available online, along with a fact sheet from the State Department.

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