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State Department Concerned by Rights Situation in Iran, Syria

The State Department says the human rights records of several Middle Eastern countries are problematic.

Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Barry Lowenkron says Syria and Iran are of particular concern. He spoke to reporters Wednesday at the release of the State Department's annual report on human rights.

Mr. Lowenkron says the United States is in talks with Saudi Arabia on wide-ranging issues, including improving the kingdom's human rights situation.

He added that elections in the Palestinian territories were a major advancement. He says Hamas must now choose between terrorism and politics.

The report also says there were serious abuses by members of Israeli security forces against Palestinian detainees.

Some information for this report was provided by AP.