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The Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — Twenty-three countries, including U.S. military allies, are not doing enough to combat international trafficking in human beings, the State Department said Thursday.

“Trafficking is a problem that has reached staggering dimensions around the globe,” the department said in a report, alluding to the estimated 700,000 people a year who are transported across international borders to work in sweatshops, construction sites, brothels and fields.

Countries on the list with which the United States maintains close political and security ties are Israel, Saudi Arabia, Greece, Turkey, South Korea. The latter three countries are defense treaty allies.

The report was prepared in response to legislation approved in October that calls for imposing economic sanctions in 2003 against countries that fail to take action against traffickers or to protect victims.

The report lists 47 countries that do not meet the minimum standards set forth in the law but are making significant efforts to comply.

The 23 countries found to be not complying are: Albania, Bahrain, Belarus, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Burma, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Greece, Indonesia, Israel, Kazakstan, Lebanon, Malaysia, Pakistan, Qatar, Romania, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Sudan, Turkey, United Arab Emirates and Yugoslavia.

Secretary of State Colin Powell, unveiling the report at a news conference, said the overwhelming majority of the victims are women and children who have been “lured, coerced or abducted by criminals who trade in human misery.”

Powell acknowledged that trafficking occurs within U.S. borders. He said a new task force is being established to combat the problem.

Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., said the United States must move aggressively to halt such abuses on U.S. soil.

“We can not be in the business of encouraging other nations to adopt practices to prevent sex trafficking, while we stall on amending our own laws,” she said.

According to the report, the United States is principally a transit and destination point for trafficking in people, with estimates that 45,000 to 50,000 are trafficked annually.

The report says that worldwide, many trafficking victims “are subjected to threats against their person and family, violence, horrific living conditions and dangerous workplaces.”

“Some victims have answered advertisements believing that they will have a good job awaiting them in a new country,” it says. “Others have been sold into a modern-day form of slavery by a relative, acquaintance or family friend.”

Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., an author of last year’s legislation, said international sex trafficking is a particularly egregious aspect of the problem.

“It includes the classic and awful elements associated with historic slavery such as abduction from family and home, use of false promises, transport to a strange country, loss of freedom and personal dignity, extreme physical abuse and depravation.”

Another supporter, Sen. Paul Wellstone, D-Minn., praised the State Department for what he called a strong report.

“It shows that the government of the United States understands the importance of addressing the issue in a comprehensive manner,” he said.

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