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US religious freedom watchdog mulls blacklisting Iraq

ICC Note

“Just speaking for myself, I am particularly concerned by the fact that the religious minorities, the defenseless minorities — those without the militias — are being pushed out of Iraq ,”

05/03/2008 Iraq (ankawa) — A US watchdog on religious freedom on Friday expressed serious concern over violations in strife-torn Iraq and was considering whether to place the ally of Washington on a blacklist with countries such as North Korea and Iran .

The 10-member commission last year placed Iraq on its “watchlist” but its members were now divided on whether it should be maintained in that category or dumped to a “country of particular concern” blacklist, officials said.

It planned to make the “appropriate designation” for Iraq in the “near future.”

The State Department’s latest religious freedom blacklist comprises North Korea , China , Iran , Myanmar , Sudan , Eritrea , Saudi Arabia and Uzbekistan .

Five years after the United States waged war on Iraq saying it wanted to free the people from the tyranny of Saddam Hussein, ethnic and religious tensions threaten to rip the country apart.

“Just speaking for myself, I am particularly concerned by the fact that the religious minorities, the defenseless minorities — those without the militias — are being pushed out of Iraq ,” commissioner Nina Shea said.

Iraq’s Christians, with the Chaldean rite the largest community, were said to total as many as 800,000 before the US-led invasion in 2003 but the number is now thought to be half that figure.

In its recommendations, the commission also asked Rice to reinclude Vietnam on the blacklist of religious freedom violators, as well as Pakistan and Turkmenistan .

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