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U.S. Issues Human Rights Critique

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The State Department renewed its criticism of the human rights records of Pakistan and China on Monday in a report that followed U.S. decisions to arm Pakistan with jet fighters and to avoid a showdown with China on the way it treats its people.

The report, which focused on U.S. efforts to improve human rights in 98 nations, was issued by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who praised the Bush administration as being "on the right side of freedom's divide."

"We have an obligation to help those who are unlucky enough to have been born on the wrong side of that divide," she said.

The report credited Pakistan with some human rights improvements but a continuing poor record. It said Pakistan's President Gen. Pervez Musharraf's government had amended the country's constitution to strengthen his powers at the expense of the National Assembly and that the military remains heavily engaged in politics.

It also cited Musharraf's decision to continue as the army chief, saying that had stirred political debate.

"The government has committed that new local elections will be scheduled for 2005 and national elections to be held no later than 2007 will be free and fair," the report said. "The United States will continue to encourage the government to adhere to this commitment and will provide needed support."

China is more heavily criticized in the report for suppressing political, social and religious groups, and individuals.

China has amended its constitution to protect human rights and has adopted legal reforms for monitoring the government. But the report said "it is unclear how or to what extent the constitutional amendment and other legal reforms will be enforced."

President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and other senior administration officials constantly raise human rights issues in their meetings with Chinese leaders, the report said.