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WASHINGTON — Fifteen countries, including U.S. allies Greece (search) and Turkey(search), have made no significant efforts to stop trafficking in humans and may face sanctions, the State Department said Wednesday.
The number of countries cited this year is lower than the 19 accused by the department last year of not doing enough to prevent people from being taken to other countries against their will.
"In our 21st century world, where freedom and democracy are spreading to every continent, it is appalling and morally unacceptable that hundreds of thousands of men, women and children are exploited, abused and enslaved by peddlers in human misery," said Secretary of State Colin Powell (search) as he released the department's third annual report.
The report warned that problems could develop in postwar Iraq. "In many conflict situations, criminal elements have exploited the breakdown of rule of law and the desperation of vulnerable families and abducted, forced or tricked individuals into prostitution," the report said.
The United States is not immune from the problem; the government estimates that 800,000 to 900,000 people are trafficked annually across international borders worldwide, with 18,000 to 20,000 winding up in the United States.