White House spokesman expresses President's concern over worsening situation of the Baha'is in Iran

Washington—28 March 2006

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The White House

At the 28 March 2006 White House press briefing, Spokesman Scott McClellan said President George Bush is concerned over last week's announcement by a UN official that government persecution of the Baha'is in Iran is intensifying.

In response to a reporter's question, Mr. McClellan called on the Iranian regime to respect the religious freedom of all of its citizens and indicated the President would continue to monitor the situation of the Baha'is very closely. He also said the United States would continue to speak out and urge other countries in the region and the United Nations to defend the rights of the Baha'is and other religious minorities in Iran.

Following is the transcript of the two questions on the situation of the Baha'is in Iran:

Q: Scott, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion and Belief has said that she's highly concerned that the
government of Iran is about to increase its persecution of the 300,000 members of the Baha'i faith in that country. What is the President's message to the government of Iran on this issue?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, as you pointed out, she has expressed her concern that the situation with regard to religious minorities in Iran, the Baha'i, is, in fact, worsening. We share those concerns. We call on the regime in Iran to respect the religious freedom of all its minorities, and to ensure that these minorities are free to practice their religious beliefs without discrimination or fear. And we will continue to monitor the situation of the Baha'i -- the Baha'is in Iran very closely, and to speak out when their rights are denied.

Q: What pressure would you urge, perhaps, other countries to put on Iran?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think we will talk with ambassadors of other countries in the region and raise this issue with them, and with their governments. We will continue to speak out and to raise this issue, the treatment of the Baha'is, in the United Nations and other organizations, and to ask all those who have any sort of influence in Tehran to continue to defend the rights of the Baha'i and other religious minorities.

The full transcript of the March 28 White House press briefing is available at www.whitehouse.gov/news/briefings.

-- U.S. Baha'i News