Iran, Syria on US Human Smuggling List
The United States has added Iran and Syria to its list of countries that could face sanctions over their failure to tackle trafficking in people. In an annual report, the US State Department said Iran was punishing victims of trafficking with beatings, imprisonment and execution.
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Washington would lead calls for action to end the problem.
The US says up to 800,000 people are the victims of trafficking every year. READ MORE
Iran and Syria now join Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, North Korea, Sudan, Cuba, and Burma on Washington's blacklist of worst offenders.
Launching the State Department's "Trafficking in People" report, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Washington was leading a new abolitionist movement to eradicate this modern-day slavery.
The report highlights concerns that the victims - often women and children - are being sold into the sex trade.
But it also lists individual countries' efforts to tackle the problem.
For the first time, Iran has been included alongside the worst offenders.
Most of the other nations on the black list include well-known critics of US policy such as Cuba and Venezuela, says BBC State Department correspondent Jonathan Beale.
But the US has also once again listed its Arab ally Saudi Arabia among those nations of greatest concern, our correspondent says.
Those countries could now face sanctions if they do not make efforts to tackle the problem in the next 90 days.
The US has also acknowledged it needs to do more itself to tackle issues like prostitution.
It has also highlighted concerns that this month's football World Cup could make Germany a focus for traffickers engaged in prostitution.