The report on the status of religious freedom worldwide, released Wednesday, noted an improved respect for religious freedom and practices in Vietnam, but said significant problems remained.

"Some religious believers continued to experience harassment or repression, particularly those who had not applied for or been granted legal sanction," the report said. "In a number of instances, local officials forced church gatherings to cease, closed unregistered house churches, and pressured individuals to renounce their religious beliefs."

Vietnam's foreign ministry said the report "continues to produce biased assessment that is built on incorrect information on Vietnam."

"In Vietnam, the rights to freedom of belief and religion of the Vietnamese people are enshrined in the national constitution and are respected and guaranteed in reality," ministry spokeswoman Nguyen Phuong Nga said in a statement posted on the ministry's website late Thursday.

There are a dozen sanctioned religions in Vietnam, a nation of 86 million people, with Buddhism and Christianity the largest. Those not recognised by the communist government are outlawed.

The Associated Press - November 19, 2010