U.S. names religious freedom violators

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On its final working day in office, the Bush administration redesignated eight countries as severe violators of religious freedom but waived possible sanctions against Saudi Arabia and Uzbekistan, officials said Monday.

On its final working day in office, the Bush administration redesignated eight countries as severe violators of religious freedom but waived possible sanctions against Saudi Arabia and Uzbekistan, officials said Monday.

The moves were reported to principal members of Congress in late January but were not made public until Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s State Department informed the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom about them last week, State officials said.

On Friday, Jan. 16, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice signed documents labeling Saudi Arabia, Uzbekistan, Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea and Sudan as “countries of particular concern” for abuse of religious worshippers. The Obama administration took office four days later, on Jan. 20.

The U.S. commission, an independent congressionally mandated panel that provides recommendations to the government on religious freedom matters, took issue with the timing of the designations and the waivers to Saudi Arabia and Uzbekistan. The commission also questioned Rice’s failure to add more countries to the blacklist.

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