Unidentified Thai suspects are seated at a news conference, Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2015, at police headquarters in Bangkok, Thailand. (AP Photo/Penny Yi Wang)
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As the United States negotiated this year's nuclear pact with Iran, the U.S. State Department quietly agreed to spare the Gulf sultanate of Oman from an embarrassing public rebuke over its human rights record, rewarding a close Arab ally that helped broker the historic deal.In a highly unusual intervention, the department's hierarchy overruled its own staff's assessments of Oman's deteriorating record on forced labor and human trafficking and inflated its ranking in a congressionally mandated report, U.S. officials told Reuters. In April, diplomats in the State Department's Near Eastern Affairs bureau and experts in the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons agreed that Oman would be downgraded from "Tier 2" to a status known as "Tier 2 Watch List," one notch above a level that can incur U.S. sanctions, according to an internal department memo seen by Reuters.The case of Oman illustrates how even a small country that is strategically significant to the United States can win concessions despite Washington's public insistence that it bases its ranking system solely on human rights.By the time this year's TIP report was published on July 27, five weeks later than usual, Oman's ranking had been maintained at "Tier 2 ".Oman has protested its trafficking ranking in the past.That impasse was resolved when Oman was given a special 60-day grace period to make specific improvements in its anti-trafficking activities and was then elevated to a higher tier.
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