Gulf Arab: No efforts to stop human trafficking

The United States criticized four Gulf Arab allies as among the world's worst offenders in permitting &to=http:// ' target=_blank>human trafficking on Friday in a rebuke Washington hopes will promote improved human rights in the Middle East.

The State Department downgraded Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates to the lowest level of compliance in a report that evaluates countries' efforts in fighting the trafficking of roughly 800,000 people forced into servitude or the sex trade every year.

Victims in the region were mostly from Asia and were generally forced to be domestic servants and laborers but also included women prostitutes and boy camel jockeys as young as three, according to the annual report.

It cited the case of a 17-year-old orphan, Lusa, who was kidnapped from Uzbekistan and sold into a slavery ring in UAE. She was eventually "no longer usable" as a &to=http:// ' target=_blank>prostitute and the emirates' immigration service said she should serve a two-year prison sentence for entering the country illegally, reports the Washington Post.

According to the Forbes, Persian Gulf monarchies, flush with record oil revenue, are betting that a $7.5 billion theme park with an indoor ski slope, a $1.2 billion power grid and a $1.2 billion cargo shipper will shield them from the next energy bust.

Gulf investors have announced $8 billion of overseas acquisitions in the past 18 months, including the purchase of wax museum owner Tussauds Group. A Kuwaiti company agreed to pay $3.4 billion for African phone company Celtel International BV, resorts are springing up in the United Arab Emirates, and Qatar is investing $7 billion to host the 2006 Asian Games.

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