State Dept. Chides Eight Countries on Religious Freedom

The State Department on Tuesday designated eight nations as the most serious violators of religious freedom, naming the same countries as the Bush administration.

The list of "Countries of Particular Concern" includes Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Uzbekistan; all but Saudi Arabia and Uzbekistan also received sanctions.

While Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has issued previous reports on religious freedom, Tuesday's report represented the first time the Obama administration has published its list of the world's worst violators.

The mid-year report focused mostly on problems and progress during the second half of 2010. But it also included more recent developments, including the assassinations of prominent critics of Pakistan's blasphemy law and the bombing of a church in Egypt that killed 22 people and injured about 100 more.

"It is our core conviction that religious tolerance is one of the essential elements not only of a sustainable democracy ...

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