A Saudi official denied allegations that the kingdom has arrested and tortured Christians, saying such actions run counter to Islamic tolerance.
The remarks to the official Saudi Press Agency came in response to reports in Iranian papers of recent arrests.
The official, who spoke to SPA on condition of anonymity, said the allegations "don't go with the principals and values of the kingdom and above all our tolerant Islamic belief which guarantees the rights of Muslims and residents of different religions and ethnicities alike."
Saudi officials rarely speak on the record.
Members of other religions in the conservative Islamic kingdom generally are allowed to practice their beliefs in private but are prohibited from seeking converts or holding organized religious gatherings.
The State Department listed Saudi Arabia as a "country of particular concern" in a report last September on the state of religious freedom in more than 190 countries. Countries so designated can be subject to sanctions. The report accused Saudi Arabia of "particularly severe violations" of religious freedom.
The Washington-based watchdog group International Christian Concern, a nonprofit organization, reported last week that Saudi security and religious police have engaged in a major crackdown against Christians, saying it had received reports of 46 confirmed arrests of Christians in the wake of reports of the desecration of the Quran at the military prison camp in Guantanamo, Cuba.
Not much has changed in the picture of anti-Semitism in Europe since last year, according to an Anti-Defamation League survey of 6,000 European adults in 12 countries. Released on the eve of this week’s OSCE conference in Spain on anti-Semitism, 43 percent feel Jews are more loyal to Israel than to their home country; approximately 30 percent feel Jews have too much power in business and finance; and 42 percent said it’s “probably true" that Jews talk too much about the Holocaust.And in this spirit of love and kindness, in Paris, a Hezbollah official refused to answer a question from a journalist because he was Israeli; several reporters left the conference in protest.
Several French journalists stalked out of a Paris news conference when a Hezbollah official refused to answer a question from an Israeli reporter.
Sety Hendler, who writes for Yediot Achronot, asked Ali Daamouch, Hezbollah’s head of exterior relations, about the status of prisoner-exchange talks with Israel. Daamouch asked Hendler his nationality, and upon hearing that he was Israeli, refused to respond to the question. Hendler left the room in protest, and several other reporters joined him in solidarity.
On her way out, a French journalist chastised those who remained behind, “He refuses to respond to a Jewish Israeli journalist and you stay! It’s scandalous, it’s shameful!"
A non-Israeli journalist repeated the question and received a vague response from Daamouch.
Paris, 6 June (AKI) - The son of the last Shah of Iran and heir to the throne, Reza Pahlawi has appealed to all Iranians to abstain from voting in the 17 June presidential elections. "If [outgoing president Mohammad] Khatami with more than 20 million votes did not have the capacity to take even a small step towards democracy, how can one expect Rafsanjani, a man hated by the majority of Iranians, to be the spokesperson for reform," Pahlawi told Iranian journalists in the French capital, Paris.IRAN: SHAH'S SON CALLS FOR BOYCOTT OF ELECTIONS
Pahlawi, who lives with his wife and two daughters near Washington D.C. in the United States, is convinced that "65 percent of Iranians will not vote on 17 June."
"Iranians have little interest in which candidate will be elected," said Pahlawi. "What most Iranians want is a referendum to choose the type of regime," he added.
The referendum Pahlawi is referring to is a request made some months ago by a group of dissidents, including Mohsen Sazegara, one of the founders of the Pasdaran, the revolutionary guards of the Ayatollah.
The referendum is touted by its supporters as a tool to help define the future of the country with the support of international organisations such as the United Nations or the European Union.
Various opposition forces, ranging from reformists who 8-years ago pinned their hopes on current president Khatami, to the monarchists who support Pahlawi, and including many of the intellecturals that supported the Islamic revolution 25 years ago are all pushing for the referendum as the only way to bring about meaningful change in Iran.