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Annual report criticizes rights record of U.S. foes, friends

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WASHINGTON (AP) _ The State Department's annual human rights report criticizes the rights performances of countries friendly to the United States but some of its harshest judgments are reserved for Iran, Iraq and North Korea.

These are the same countries President Bush said were part of an ``axis of evil'' because of their presumed propensity for terrorism or weapons proliferation activities.

The congressionally mandated report, released Monday, assesses rights conditions worldwide during 2001. It offered these observations on the ``axis'' countries:

_ Iran: ``The government significantly restricts citizens' right to change their government. Systematic abuses include summary executions, disappearances, widespread use of torture and other degrading treatment.''

_ Iraq: ``The government continued to be responsible for disappearances and to kill and torture persons suspected of _ or related to persons suspected of _ economic crimes, military desertion, and a variety of other activities. Security forces routinely tortured, beat, raped, and otherwise abused detainees.''

_ North Korea: ``There continued to be reports of extrajudicial killings and disappearances. Citizens are detained arbitrarily, and many are held as political prisoners; prison conditions are harsh.''

Some countries friendly to the United States also were criticized, including two key partners in the war on terrorism, Pakistan and Uzbekistan. Both were enlisted early on after Sept. 11 because of their proximity to Afghanistan.

In Pakistan, the report said, there were rights improvements in some areas. But, it added, police committed numerous extrajudicial killings and engaged in the rape and abuse of citizens. Despite this record, ``no officer has been convicted and very few have been arrested,'' the report said.

``Prison conditions remained extremely poor and life threatening, and police arbitrarily arrested and detained citizens,'' it said.

In Uzbekistan, where about 1,000 U.S. troops were based on Afghanistan-related missions last fall, the report said security forces tortured, beat, and harassed people. Also, they ``arbitrarily arrested and detained persons, on false charges, particularly Muslims suspected of extremist sympathies, frequently planting narcotics, weapons, or banned literature on them.''

Weeks after the reporting period for the study ended, the administration tripled assistance to Uzbekistan to $160 million.

The report listed Afghanistan and Peru among the success stories of 2001.

In Afghanistan, the report said, the installation of a new government last December ended five years of ``cruel and arbitrary rule'' by the Taliban, a regime that had relegated women ``to a state of nonexistence in society.''

In Peru, a transitional government and an elected replacement government took significant steps during the year to combat corruption, and investigate human rights abuses that occurred under former President Alberto Fujimori, the report said. President Bush will visit Peru later this month.
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