Magazine article The Christian Century

Powell Adds Saudis to Freedom Watchlist

Magazine article The Christian Century

Powell Adds Saudis to Freedom Watchlist

Article excerpt

The U.S. State Department has for the first time included Saudi Arabia on a list of "countries of particular concern" for not allowing religious freedom--a potential stumbling block for relations between the U.S. and its Persian Gulf ally.

The department's sixth annual report on international religions freedom 'also added Eritrea and Vietnam to the roster of countries guilty or tolerant of "systematic, ongoing, egregious violations of religious freedom." Nations that remained on the list were Burma, China, Iran, North Korea and Sudan. Iraq, which had been on the list, was removed.

"Defending the sacred ground of human conscience is a natural commandment to all mankind, and America will always heed this call," Secretary of State Colin Powell said.

Designation on the "CPC" list does not carry immediate sanctions, and countries eked repeatedly face little more than diplomatic pressure. Still, human rights advocates say being listed among "the worst of the worst" is a significant signal.

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, an independent watchdog group chartered by Congress in 1998, had urged Powell to also add Pakistan and Turkmenistan to the CPC list in its May report. …

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