State Dept. urged to list Saudis
as religious freedom violators

SPECIAL TO WORLD TRIBUNE.COM
Sunday, May 16, 2004

A U.S. government panel has again urged urged that Saudi Arabia be designated a "country of particular concern." The designation has been reserved for those states regarded as the worst violators of religious freedom.

The Commission on International Religious Freedom called for the designation that would make Saudi Arabia eligible for sanctions that could halt military sales to the Arab kingdom.

This was the fourth time the commission recommended that Saudi Arabia be designated a country of particular concern, Middle East Newsline reported. The State Department has rejected previous recommendations. Saudi Arabia has been regarded as the biggest military procurer of U.S. military equipment in the world.

So far, the State Department has deemed Burma, China, North Korea, Iran, and Sudan as countries of particular concern. The designation makes these countries eligible for sanctions, including a cutoff in military aid.

In May 2003, the commission recommended that Congress authorize a study to determine whether and how the Saudi royal family propogates what the panel termed a "religious ideology that explicitly promotes hate and violence toward members of other religious groups, including disfavored Muslims." In April 2004, the General Accounting Office was asked to determine what the U.S. government was doing to monitor Saudi funding of institutions that advocate violence.

The commission also asked Secretary of State Colin Powell to add Eritrea, India, Pakistan, Turkmenistan and Vietnam to the list of countries of particular concern [CPC]. The commission was created by Congress in 1998 to make recommendations on issues of religious freedom to the president, secretary of state and Congress.

"The simple designation by the U.S. government of a severe violator of religious freedom as a CPC is not sufficient action," the commission report said. "The policy of the United States also must be to take active steps in response to those countries deemed to be particularly egregious religious freedom violators."

The commission also recommended that Egypt remain on a so-called Watch List of countries. The report said Egypt's record could approach a level which would require CPC designation.


Copyright 2004 East West Services, Inc.

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