A row over specific references to Christianity has prevented EU foreign ministers from agreeing a joint declaration condemning religious persecution, despite a recent spate of attacks on minorities in Iraq and Egypt.

Instead, a draft text which called on EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton to come up with “concrete proposals” to boost freedom of religion was sent back to the drawing board on Monday evening (31 January).

Italian foreign minister Franco Frattini led opposition to the text which “firmly” condemned the “acts of terrorism targeting places of worship”, claiming the document showed an “excess of secularism”.

“The final text didn’t include any mention of Christians, as if we were talking of something else, so I asked the text to be withdrawn,” he told reporters in Brussels.

France reportedly backed Italy on the need to include references to specific minorities, including Christians and Shi’ite Muslims.

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