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Tuesday, 5 September, 2000, 22:48 GMT 23:48 UK
US condemns religious intolerance
Falun Gong protestors challenge by police in Tianamen Square
The Chinese have arrested many Falun Gong protestors
A United States Government report says many of the world's population still lacks religious freedom.

The report, which was unveiled by US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, surveyed the state of religious tolerance in 194 countries.

"Much of the report we issue today is grim reading," Mrs Albright said.

The report labelled Iraq and Afghanistan among the worst offenders and said persecution was also rife in Burma, China, Iran and Sudan.

On Iraq, the report speaks of a "brutal campaign of murder, summary execution, and protracted arbitrary detention against the religious leaders and adherents of the majority Shia Muslim population."

The report also criticised Taleban rulers in Afghanistan and said they were responsible for several atrocities such as "public executions, floggings and amputations" under Sharia law.

It accused them of sponsoring weekly acts of violence.

The report also singled out China for repressing religious groups such as the Falun Gong.

"Members of such groups were subject to harassment, extortion, prolonged detention, physical abuse, and incarceration in prison," the report said.

Global values

Madeline Albright said global religious freedom was not just an American ideal.

"Religious liberty is far more than an American ideal ... it has become a shared aspiration and obligation of the entire international community," she said.

Some states which are traditional allies of the US - including Austria, France, Germany, the Czech Republic and Belgium - were also criticised.

The report praised Azerbaijan and Laos for making significant progress to ensure freedom of worship.

The US Government can take a number of actions including sanctions against states seen as religiously intolerant but the report said no action would be taken in this instance.

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See also:

29 Aug 00 | Americas
Religious leaders talk politics
21 Jun 00 | Africa
The many faces of Sharia
26 Apr 00 | Asia-Pacific
Falun Gong: Living in fear
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