The United States accused 12 nations Monday of failing to do enough to stop the modern-day slave trade in prostitutes, child sex slaves and forced laborers and warned key ally Germany that it should do more to stop an expected tide of trafficking for sexual exploitation during the upcoming World Cup.
"The U.S. government opposes prostitution," a State Department report on global human trafficking said. "These activities are inherently harmful and dehumanizing."
According to some estimates, thousands of foreign women, many from Eastern Europe, will engage in sex work in Germany during the four-week tournament that begins Friday.
The United States called Germany a "source, transit and destination country" for sex workers and other exploited people. The 2006 Trafficking in Persons Report still gave Germany its highest overall rating for compliance with effort to stop trafficking and noted German efforts to combat exploitation during the World Cup.
"Nonetheless, due to the sheer size of the event, the potential for increased human trafficking during the games remains a concern," the report said.
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.
The report lists Iran and Syria among the dozen nations.
Apart from crucial Arab ally Saudi Arabia and the Central American nation of Belize, the rest of the list of violators reads like a catalog of nations at perpetual odds with the Bush administration: Myanmar, Cuba, Iran, Laos, North Korea, Sudan, Syria, Uzbekistan, Venezuela, Zimbabwe.
Countries that fail to crack down can be subject to a variety of sanctions, including the cutting off of aid.
Two countries have been sanctioned since the reports began, Equatorial Guinea and Venezuela.
The German government, while defending its policy of legalized prostitution, emphatically denies that it condones human trafficking and says it has intensified efforts to combat it.
Germany's sex-industry entrepreneurs have made no secret of their expectation of a boom as hundreds of thousands of visitors arrive for the World Cup. At the four-story, 40-bedroom Atriums brothel which opened in Berlin last fall, manager Egret Krumeich predicted business — normally 130 clients a day — could double or triple during the 32-nation soccer tournament.
Ambassador John Miller, who heads the State Department's trafficking office, acknowledged that the administration worries about a trafficking spike during the World Cup.
"I have expressed my concern directly to the German ambassador here," Miller told reporters.
The area that appeared to make the biggest strides toward combating human trafficking, according to the report, was the Persian Gulf.
Three regional countries listed a year ago among the worst violators — Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates — were found in the 2006 report to have improved.
Saudi Arabia was the only repeat country from the Gulf. Iran, a new entry, was described as a "source, transit and destination country for women and girls trafficked for the purposes of sexual exploitation and involuntary servitude."
Similar language was used for a number of other countries on the list of worst offenders.
Other countries in this category for the first time are Laos, Syria, Uzbekistan and Zimbabwe.
The closest U.S. ally where serious problems were found was Israel. The report said Israel is a destination for lower-skilled workers from Europe and Asia, adding that some were "subjected to conditions of involuntary servitude" in Israel.
Miller said Venezuela has shown no interest in combating its trafficking problem. "They have never had an arrest, a prosecution or a conviction of a trafficker," he said.
The report also noted that the United States itself has been subjected to allegations of trafficking of third country nationals into Iraq by Defense Department contractors.
The report noted that alleged victims are from India, Nepal, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and the Philippines.
The reported abuses included confiscation of passports, deceptive hiring practices and excessive recruitment fees, the study said, noting that the Pentagon has taken remedial measures.