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US Commission Adds Afghanistan to Watch List of Religious Rights Violators


A U.S. government commission has added Afghanistan to its watch list of countries that violate religious freedom.

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom released its annual report to Congress and President Bush Wednesday. It recommends that 11 countries be designated as "countries of particular concern" by the State Department, meaning they could face sanctions. Those countries are China, North Korea, Vietnam, Burma, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Iran, Eritrea, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan.

The commission says it has again concluded that freedom of religion "does not exist" in Saudi Arabia.

The commission placed another seven states on a watch list because of severe religious rights violations. They are Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Belarus, Cuba, Egypt, Indonesia and Nigeria.

The commission's chairman, Michael Cromartie, warned that the universal right to religious freedom is imperiled in Afghanistan and Iraq, two countries where the United States has troops deployed.

The commission is an independent body appointed by the White House and Congress. It cannot mandate any specific action but does make recommendations to the Secretary of State.

This year's report says the commission is also closely monitoring the situations in India, Russia and Sri Lanka.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP.