WASHINGTON (Reuters)

27/10/09

North Korea and Iran were among the world’s worst offenders in abusing religious freedom, the U.S. State Department said on Monday in an annual report spotlighting countries Washington charges with severe religious repression.

North Korea, often cited as among the harshest opponents of religious liberty, continued to block almost all unapproved religious activity while Iran’s Islamic government saw already limited religious tolerance deteriorate, creating a threatening environment for religious minorities, the report said.

The report cited six other countries for egregious violations of religious freedom over the past year — Myanmar, China, Sudan, Eritrea, Saudi Arabia and Uzbekistan — the same list that the State Department provided last year. Offenders can be subject to U.S. sanctions.

“It is our hope that the …report will encourage existing religious freedom movements around the world and promote dialogue among governments and within societies on how best to accommodate religious communities and protect each individual’s right to believe or not believe as that individual sees fit,” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said.