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Iraq, Afghanistan, Sudan Failing on Human Rights

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Fledgling U.S.-backed democracies in Afghanistan and Iraq are failing to protect human rights, the State Department said Tuesday, despite huge flows of American aid to improve conditions after the ousters of the Taliban and Saddam Hussein.

The department criticized the two U.S. allies in the war on terror for their records last year, when they were beset by increasingly bloody insurgencies and saddled with weak administrations and poorly trained security forces.

"Too often in the past year we received painful reminders that human rights, though self-evident, are not self-enforcing," Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said in presenting the annual global survey of human rights practices.

The genocide in Sudan's troubled western Darfur region was the "most sobering reality of all," the report said.

The report cited poor human rights conditions in several other U.S. allies and partners, including China, Egypt, Pakistan, Russia and Saudi Arabia. It also criticized the records of foes Cuba, Iran, Venezuela and North Korea -- even amid recent progress in talks aimed at persuading North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons program.

The U.S. provided U.S. $102.9 million for Afghanistan human rights and democracy programs last year alone and $183 million for Iraq since 2004, according to State Department figures.

Barry Lowenkron, assistant secretary state for democracy, expressed disappointment in Iraq's efforts, saying, "It's a long, long, hard road."

Nevertheless, Lowenkron said there was "no comparison" between conditions in Iraq now and those under Saddam, who ruled the country with an iron fist for more than two decades.

In Afghanistan, President Hamid Karzai's government made progress on human rights in 2006, but its performance "remained poor." Government abuses included torture, poor prison conditions, official impunity, prolonged pretrial detention, violations of press and religious freedoms, and discrimination against women and religious converts, it said.

The report slammed Sudan for the situation in Darfur, where more than 200,000 have died and an estimated 2.5 million have been displaced during four years of violence.

Just days before senior U.S. diplomats expect to meet Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir in Khartoum, the report blamed the Sudanese military and proxy militia for the genocide in Darfur.

"The Sudanese government and government-backed janjaweed militia bear responsibility for the genocide in Darfur," the report said. The report said atrocities continue, including some committed by indigenous rebels.

By Matthew Lee

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