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ICC Note:
Call us cynics but we are expecting a soft landing for the Saudi’s.

US to report on talks with Saudis on religious freedom
Yahoo News

WASHINGTON (AFP) – The United States said it would announce the outcome of talks with Saudi Arabia on reforms following the expiry of a waiver period for sanctions against the Islamic republic over religious freedom violations.

Saudi Arabia , a key US ally, was blacklisted as a “country of particular concern” by the State Department in 2004 for “its systematic violations of the right to freedom of thought, conscience, religion and belief.”

A year after the designation, which under US law could subject the country to sanctions, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice approved a temporary 180-day “waiver of further action” to allow for talks with the Saudi government.

The waiver expired in late March 2006.

“The State Department has been working intensively with Saudi Arabia since we put in place a waiver of sanctions last September with the goal of securing progress on religious tolerance and increased freedom for religious practice there,” a department spokesman told AFP.

“We will be announcing the results shortly,” the spokesman said.

Two US Senators, in a letter to Rice, said they were “very concerned” that since the waiver expired more than two months ago, no action had been taken against Saudi Arabia .

“We fully expect that any action or agreement reached with the Saudi government will be made public in the interest of the accountability that results from transparency,” Democratic Senator Charles Schumer and Republican Susan Collins said in the letter.

US officials told AFP there had never been any discussions of taking Saudi Arabia off the blacklist.

The US Commission on International Religious Freedom, a Congress mandated body monitoring global religious rights, said Friday that action against Saudi Arabia was long overdue.

“The Commission believes the time is long overdue for the US government to take action as required by the International Religious Freedom Act against Saudi Arabia for its egregious violations of the right to freedom of thought, conscience, religion and belief,” said its chairman, Michael Cromartie.

He said that the Saudi government “has made no demonstrable improvement on religious freedom” since it was blacklisted nearly two years ago and that the statutory period for US action had expired.

The action could include travel restrictions on Saudi officials responsible for “severe violations” as well as export curbs on items that could be used to perpetrate rights violations, Cromartie said.