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ICC Note:

It is high time for the US government to take action against Saudi Arabia for violating human rights by its denial of religious liberty.

AsiaNews/Agencies (05/04/06) – The Congressional Commission on International Religious Freedom urged the US government to take “aggressive action” against Saudi Arabia for alleged violations to religious freedom. The congressional body urged Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to keep Saudi Arabia , as well as China , Eritrea , Iran , Myanmar , North Korea , Sudan and Vietnam , on the annual government blacklist of “severe religious freedom violators” six of which are in Asia . In addition, it also proposed that Pakistan , Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan be added to the list.

Commission chairman Michael Cromartie indicated that conditions for religious freedom in Saudi Arabia had not substantially improved since it was blacklisted two years ago.

Washington had granted a “temporary 180-day waiver of further action” against Saudi Arabia to allow for continued talks with the ally over religious reforms, which expired in late March.

Freedom of religion “does not exist” in the oil-rich kingdom, Mr Cromartie said. And the US government “must not hesitate in taking aggressive action” against the country, he said, suggesting travel restrictions on Saudi officials as well as export curbs.

Afghanistan , which under the Talibans was a particularly gross violator of religious freedom, was added to the commission’s “watch list” along with Bangladesh , Belarus , Cuba , Egypt , Indonesia and Nigeria , despite the fact that a court last month demanded that a Muslim who converted to Christianity be sentenced to death under Sharia law.