The U.S. State Department has released its annual report on human rights, and it is particularly critical about Russia. Complaints in the report issued today include increased Kremlin control of the country's news media and President Vladimir Putin's decision to appoint regional governors rather than have them elected locally. In the Middle East, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Egypt were among the countries described as having poor rights records in 2004. Iran was the target of criticism for practices such as limiting candidates to those approved by the country's religious leadership. Michael Kozak, the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, said that as a democracy, Iran is, in his words, "out of phase" with some neighboring countries. He added: "Iran's got a real problem if it wants to become a respected member of the family of nations. It's not doing the things that get you there." The summary of rights records in 196 countries accused China of severely limiting the democratic rights of its citizens. The document also said Beijing has been using the war on Islamic militants as an excuse for cracking down on Muslim Uighurs in Western China.