Sudan Urged to Improve Religious Freedom or Face US Aid to Dissidents
An independent advisory body on Monday said Washington should be prepared to give non-lethal aid to appropriate Sudanese opposition groups if Khartoum does not improve religious freedom.
The commission has singled out Sudan and China as two of the world's worst offenders and expressed severe concerns about trends in Russia.
The US Commission on International Religious Freedom, set up under the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998, issued its first report here yesterday. The report, a selective look at religious persecution, also briefly addressed the situation in Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Turkmenistan, and Vietnam.
In its first annual report created in 1998 to monitor religious freedom around the world, it said the United States should begin a 12-month plan of incentives and disincentives to pressure Sudan to improve human rights.
"If there is not measurable improvement in religious freedom in Sudan at the end of that period, the United States should be prepared to provide non-lethal and humanitarian aid to appropriate opposition groups," it said in a report that also focuses on the situation in China and Russia.
The commission, which makes recommendations to the president, the secretary of state and Congress, said Washington should consider providing the aid sooner if the situation deteriorates markedly.
Commission members, including Christian, Jewish, Muslim and Bahai religious leaders as well as experts on human rights and international law, highlighted religious factors behind Sudan's 17-year civil war that has taken two million lives, mostly Christians and followers of traditional animist religions.
They cited efforts by the "Islamist extremist government in Khartoum" to extend Sharia (Islamic law) to African Christians and animists in the south and Khartoum's bid to "impose its extremist interpretation of Islam on all other Muslims."
"We welcome many of the proposals, including the report's call for increased focus on the Sudanese government's abuses of human and religious rights," the State Department said in a statement.
Since 1993, Washington has put Sudan on its list of state sponsors of terrorism, against which harsh sanctions apply. Other offenders on the US list are Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea and Syria.
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)
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