Bush praises Dalai Lama's 'courage'

President George Bush says he will continue to press for greater religious freedom in his meetings with world leaders, including those in China.

Mr. Bush spoke Monday at the White House as he marked the 10th anniversary of the U.S. International Religious Freedom Act, which established a commission to monitor religious freedom worldwide.

"We remember those seeking religious freedom in China, and we honor those who press for their liberties, people like the Uighur Muslims," said Bush.

"I also had the honor of meeting those who attend underground churches in China. And we also honor the courage of the Dalai Lama and the Buddhists in Tibet," he said.

The president, who is attending next month's Olympics in China, said his message to Chinese President Hu Jintao is that as long as people are willing to fight for their religious freedom, the United States stands with them.

Mr. Bush criticized Iran, Eritrea, Sudan, North Korea, Burma, Uzbekistan and Saudi Arabia for their records on religious freedom. He said Iran's anti-Semitism has provoked global outrage, while three thousand religious prisoners are languishing in Eritrean jails.

Mr. Bush applauded the release of dozens of religious prisoners in Vietnam, and the freeing and pardoning in Turkmenistan of a chief mufti who refused to teach state propaganda as a sacred religious text.

The International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 also established the position of an ambassador for religious freedom, and authorized the use of sanctions against nations that deny their people the right to worship.