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Bush Calls for Religious Freedom In China, Iran


U.S. President George Bush says he will continue to press for greater religious freedom in his meetings with world leaders - including those in China. VOA's Paula Wolfson reports Mr. Bush spoke at a ceremony marking the 10th anniversary of legislation designed to promote religious freedom around the world.

The president says in too many countries, too many people lack the right to worship as they please.

"Our thoughts turn especially to countries where religious freedom is of particular concern," said President Bush. "Some of these nations have taken steps toward reform. Others have not."

In remarks on the 10th anniversary of the International Religious Freedom Act, the president made specific mention of Iran, Eritrea, Sudan, North Korea, Burma, Uzbekistan and Saudi Arabia. But his most detailed remarks concerned the treatment of those seeking religious freedom in China.

Mr. Bush spoke about his recent meeting in Washington with a Chinese human-rights lawyer named Li Baiguang who is a devout Protestant.

"For his work he has been repeatedly jailed and attacked," he said. "A few months ago, he was scheduled to meet with members of Congress. State authorities blocked the meeting and detained Li on the outskirts of Beijing."

President Bush said he has brought up the need for greater religious freedom in China in past meetings with Chinese President Hu Jintao. He has indicated he plans to do so again when he travels to Beijing next month for the opening of the summer Olympic games.

"Wherever and whenever I meet leaders, I am going to constantly remind them they ought to welcome religion in their society, not fear it," said Mr. Bush.

Mr. Bush made his comments to a small audience made up largely of members of Congress who pushed the International Religious Freedom Act through the legislature in 1998. Among other things, it set up a U.S. commission to monitor religious rights around the world, established the position of an ambassador for religious freedom, and authorized the use of sanctions against nations that deny their people the right to worship as they see fit.

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