WASHINGTON - Religious freedom has sharply deteriorated in Iraq over the past year because of the insurgency and violence targeting people of specific faiths, despite the US military buildup intended to improve security, a State Department report said yesterday.
The Annual Report on International Religious Freedom found the violence is not confined to the well-known rivalry between Sunni and Shia Muslims.
"The ongoing insurgency significantly harmed the ability of all religious believers to practice their faith," said the report released by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
In her remarks, Rice did not specifically address the situation in Iraq.
She said the report, covering 198 countries, was an important element of President Bush's efforts to promote religious freedom worldwide.
"Freedom of religion is integral to efforts to combat the ideology of hatred and intolerance that fuels global terrorism," she said.