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NATO Tells Troops to Stay Away from Sex Traffickers - 2004-07-08

The NATO alliance has adopted new guidelines to ensure that its peacekeeping troops do not seek the services of women forced into prostitution.

The new policy, approved at last month's NATO summit in Istanbul, is an effort to combat a wave of human trafficking that is especially prevalent in the Balkans.

NATO spokesman James Appathurai says the alliance's 26 members are aware that trafficking in human beings, especially women, fuels corruption and organized crime and runs counter to the alliance's efforts to build stability in areas where its peacekeepers are stationed.

"And certainly, all NATO nations are deeply committed to ensure that our personnel, their personnel, do nothing to contribute in any way to this, and, indeed, make every effort to combat trafficking in human beings," Mr. Appathurai said.

Not only have the new guidelines been endorsed by the 26 allies, they also gained the support of NATO's 20 partner-countries, which include Russia, Ukraine, traditional European neutral states like Sweden and Switzerland, and countries in the Caucasus and Central Asia.

U.S. Ambassador to NATO Nicholas Burns says the challenge now will be to implement the policy.

"Step one was to get 46 nations to agree to it,? Mr. Burns said. ?Step two will be to work with our military authorities to make sure that every soldier deployed on a NATO mission is aware of the policy, aware of the problem, and aware of his or her responsibilities not to be involved with it in any way, shape or form."

Mr. Burns cited U.N. statistics that 200,000 women are trafficked through the Balkans every year and that most end up in a situation of sexual slavery. His Norwegian colleague, Kai Eide, said 90 percent of the prostitutes in Bosnia have been forced into such activity by traffickers.

The United States and Norway led the campaign to get NATO to adopt the new guidelines. Both countries have banned their soldiers from visiting prostitutes. The NATO policy stops short of such a complete ban but says allied troops will not facilitate sexual trafficking by patronizing prostitutes known to be controlled by traffickers.