Washington The United States accused 14 nations Friday of failing to do enough to stop the modern-day slave trade in prostitutes, child sex workers and forced laborers. The countries include Saudi Arabia, Washington's closest Arab ally in the war on terrorism.
Three other U.S. allies in the Middle East - Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar - were newly listed this year as nations that are failing to adequately address trafficking problems. The State Department said the 14 countries could be subject to sanctions if they did not crack down.
As many as 800,000 people are bought and sold across national borders annually or lured to other countries with false promises of work or other benefits, the State Department said in its annual survey of international human trafficking. Most are women and children.
"Trafficking in human beings is nothing less than a modern form of slavery," Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said. "The United States has a particular duty to fight this scourge because trafficking in persons is an affront to the principles of human dignity and liberty upon which this nation was founded."
The other countries listed as poor performers in stopping trafficking are Bolivia, Cambodia, Cuba, Ecuador, Jamaica, Myanmar, North Korea, Sudan, Togo and Venezuela.
The department placed China, South Africa and 25 other countries on a watch list. Those nations have trafficking problems, but their government are making what the State Department calls significant efforts to combat them.
Saudi Arabia has turned a blind eye to the problem of poor or low-skilled workers brought into the country and exploited or who go there voluntarily but find themselves in "involuntary servitude," the report said.