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US Government Broadens 2005 Human Rights Report

The U.S. State Department's annual human rights report examines the condition of individual and political liberties around the globe, using a variety of factors, from the protection of political freedoms to the treatment of women, children and minorities.

The State Department says each country's profile is based on its record of upholding international standards of human rights, including the protection of political freedoms, workers' rights and personal integrity. The report also examines the protection of religious and media freedom, as well as the treatment of women, children and minorities.

Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, Michael Kozak, says this year's report looks more closely at government accountability and discrimination. "We've added content this year; you will see there is more coverage given to anti-Semitism, corruption, and to issues of discrimination of persons with disabilities," he said.

The report finds widespread incidence of discrimination, particularly against women.

It singles out Burma for its failure to combat violence against women and children. It blames the country's military regime for allowing the abuse and trafficking of women and children to worsen last year because of economic mismanagement and forced labor policies.

It also says there were credible reports of government soldiers raping women from ethnic minorities.

On press freedoms, the State Department scores Russia for backsliding on media rights, saying pressure from Moscow has weakened freedom of expression and the independence of the country's media.

The criticism echoes comments made by President Bush last week. During a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Slovakia, Mr. Bush called on Russia to respect its commitments to democracy, including a free press.

Speaking through a translator, Mr. Putin, however, defended his country's media rights record. "We do have freedom of the press, although, we're being criticized. Often that is not the case," he said.

Paula Dobriansky, undersecretary of state for global affairs, says the advancement of human rights is the cornerstone of U.S. foreign policy. "Promoting human rights is not just an element of our foreign policy it is the bedrock of our policy, and our foremost concern," he said.

Ms. Dobriansky says the individual country reports will be key in shaping U.S. foreign policy in the coming months.