- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 5, 2002

Iraq, Iran and North Korea are among the world's worst human rights abusers, according to the State Department's annual survey of human rights around the world issued yesterday.

President Bush's "axis of evil" countries headed a long list of regimes including Angola, China, Colombia, Congo, Cuba, Saudi Arabia and Uzbekistan that received a "poor" rating from the report, which uses local U.S. Embassy personnel and State Department analysts to document the status of human rights, democracy and personal freedoms in more than 190 countries.

Lorne Craner, the assistant secretary of state who oversaw the writing of the report, denied that the terrorist attacks of September 11 have shifted the Bush administration's focus away from human rights, as many private organizations had feared.

"Over the last few months, I have heard the worry that the war on terrorism will sideline America's interest in human rights," Mr. Craner said. "This is far from true. In fact, the protection of human rights is even more important now than ever."

Mr. Craner said the United States would not cut off dialogue with countries because of poor human rights records, saying it was especially important to communicate with such countries.

Tom Malinowski, director of Human Rights Watch, a leading private human rights advocacy group, praised this year's survey as "a thorough, candid and accurate report that pulled no punches with regards to U.S. allies around the world."

Mr. Malinowski said he was pleased the report did not shy away from criticizing China and Russia for using the war against terrorism to justify abuses of human rights.

The State Department's human rights chief named Pakistan and Kazakhstan as countries where there has been greater human rights discussion following the September 11 attacks. He also singled out Morocco, Jordan and Turkey as countries where the issue of human rights had received greater attention in recent months.

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