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WIRE:10/05/1999 22:47:00 ET
China, 6 other nations subject to religious freedom sanctions

WASHINGTON (AP)_ The State Department has designated China and six other countries for possible sanctions for having engaged in or tolerated "particularly severe" violations of religious freedom, officials said Tuesday night.

Joining China on the list were Afghanistan, Burma, Iran, Iraq, Serbia and Sudan, the officials said. Of the seven, the United States has normal diplomatic relations only with China.

According to statute, the secretary of state is authorized to choose from a variety of sanctions to show U.S. displeasure over the absence of religious freedom in the designated countries.

The secretary has the option of waiving sanctions if she deems it to be in the national interest.

The sanctions can range from a wrist slap to economic penalties. The disclosures came four weeks after the State Department issued its first annual report on the state of religious freedom worldwide.

The report said Chinese government intolerance of unregistered religious activity has led in some areas to persecution of people, on the basis of religious practice, "through harassment, prolonged detention and incarceration in prison or 'reform-through-labor' camps."

The report offers these evaluations on the other six:

Afghanistan _ Shiites suffered persecution and killing at the hands of the Taliban-led government in Kabul. Afghan police impose "severe physical punishment and imprisonment" for deviations from codes of worship and dress, the report said.

Burma _ The government arrests and imprisons Buddhist monks who promote human and political rights.

Iran _ Policies have been implemented to eradicate the Baha'i faith through prolonged imprisonment of Bahai's, confiscation and desecration of holy places and denial of the right to assemble.

Iraq _ The government has conducted a campaign of murder, summary execution and protracted arbitrary arrest against religious leaders and adherents of the Shi'a Muslim population.

Serbia _ Authorities engaged in the killing, torture, rape and forced emigration of Kosovar Albanians.

Sudan _ Christians, practitioners of traditional indigenous religions and Muslims who deviate from the official interpretation of Islam are subject to killing, prolonged arbitrary detention or imprisonment, threats, violence and forced conversion to Islam.

©Copyright 1999, ABC News

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