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Panel: Iraq must do more to protect all

Aug. 14, 2009 at 5:43 PM

WASHINGTON, Aug. 14 (UPI) -- A U.S. commission on religious freedom Friday urged Iraqi government officials to work hard to prevent a return to increased sectarian violence.

Recent attacks on a predominantly Shiite village near Mosul, and other Shiite-dominated areas, as well as a suicide-bombing in a Yazdi-dominant town prompted the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom to voice its concern, the panel said in a news release.

Actions the Iraqi government can take include "providing visible and effective protection to all religious and ethnic minorities in Iraq, ensuring greater sectarian integration into the government and security forces, and bolstering police protection where it is needed the most by shifting resources when necessary," said Leonard Leo, the committee's chairman.

The Iraqi government also must promote reconciliation and religious tolerance by maintaining a functional national human rights commission, the commission said.

In addition, security personnel must do a better job of investigating acts of sectarian violence, and government leader should facilitate interfaith conflict-resolution and dialogue amongst Iraq's youth, Leo said.

Besides the recommendations, the committee recommended that Iraq be named a "country of particular concern" under the International Religious Freedom Act in 2008 and 2009 because of the government's failure to protect the country's religious minorities and the role Iraqi security forces play in fomenting sectarian conflict.

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