updated 3/28/2005 5:59:02 PM ET 2005-03-28T22:59:02

The State Department renewed its criticism of the human rights records of Pakistan and China on Monday in a report that followed U.S. decisions to arm Pakistan with jet fighters and to avoid a showdown with China on the way it treats its people.

The report, which focused on U.S. efforts to improve human rights in 98 nations, was issued by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who said the Bush administration was “on the right side of freedom’s divide.”

“We have an obligation to help those who are unlucky enough to have been born on the wrong side of that divide,” she said.

Musharraf powers draw fire
The report credited Pakistan with some human rights improvements but said it continued to have a poor record. It said the government of President Gen. Pervez Musharraf had amended the country’s constitution to strengthen his powers at the expense of the National Assembly and the military remains heavily engaged in politics.

It also criticized Musharraf’s decision to continue as the army chief.

“The government has committed that new local elections will be scheduled for 2005 and national elections to be held no later than 2007 will be free and fair,” the report said. “The United States will continue to encourage the government to adhere to this commitment and will provide needed support.”

China was more heavily criticized in the report for suppressing political, social and religious groups as well as individuals.

China picture is murky
China has amended its constitution to protect human rights and has adopted legal reforms for monitoring the government. But the report said “it is unclear how or to what extent the constitutional amendment and other legal reforms will be enforced.”

President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and other senior administration officials constantly raise human rights issues in their meetings with Chinese leaders, the report said.

Last week, the United States rewarded Pakistan for its counterterrorism support with a green light to purchase more than a dozen F-16 jet fighter planes. The sale was cast in terms of an overall security boost for the region, including India and Afghanistan.

On Monday, thousands of opposition activists — supporters of a coalition of radical Islamic groups — rallied in Peshawar in northwest Pakistan, chanting “Death to dictatorship!” in the latest demonstration against Musharraf.

Assistant Secretary of State Michael Kozak said the demonstration might reflect an easing of restrictions by the government. “When you open up a situation, people make their views known,” he said.

Two weeks ago, the administration shelved a resolution criticizing China that had been prepared for an international human rights conference in Geneva. Officials said they had worked out a deal a few days earlier with China on a half-dozen reforms.

Publicly, the Bush administration has criticized China consistently for mistreating its people. The administration is also trying to persuade European allies not to lift an embargo on weapons sales to China.

U.S. under its own cloud
The United States, meanwhile, has come under criticism for abuses committed against terrorist suspects at the U.S. prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and has transferred some prisoners and released others.

The report said Pakistan had taken in 30 of the transferred prisoners, by far the largest number. Morocco, described in the report as having a poor human rights record, took in five. Saudi Arabia, which took four, was cited for a poor record but also credited with some improvements.

Amnesty International, a human rights group, approved the support the Bush administration was giving human rights, but said the “moral voice” of the White House was dimmed by mistreatment of Iraqi prisoners in the Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad and by the detention of hundreds of prisoners at Guantanamo without charges.

© 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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