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Last Updated: Wednesday, 30 May 2007, 15:01 GMT 16:01 UK
Norway rated most peaceful nation
The aftermath of a car bomb blast in Baghdad, Iraq
The index placed Iraq at the bottom of the list
A study has ranked Norway as the most peaceful country and Iraq as the least in a survey of 121 countries.

The Global Peace Index, compiled by the Economist Intelligence Unit, looked at 24 factors to determine how peaceful each country was.

It places the US at 96th on the list and the UK at 49th, while New Zealand ranks second and Japan fifth.

The authors say it is the first attempt to produce such a wide-ranging league table of how peaceful countries are.

Factors examined by the authors include levels of violence and organised crime within the country and military expenditure.

The survey has been backed by the Dalai Lama, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, former US President Jimmy Carter and US economist Joseph Stiglitz, who are all Nobel prize laureates.

It is also supported by Queen Noor of Jordan.

'Wake-up call'

Scandinavian and other European countries generally performed well in the survey.

1 Norway
2 New Zealand
3 Denmark
4 Ireland
5 Japan

But Britain's ranking comes partly from its involvement in Iraq and other conflicts.

The United States is 96th - between Yemen and Iran - again because of such things as its military spending, its involvement in Iraq, violent crime at home, and a high prison population.

The survey also places Russia and Israel at the wrong end of the scale - 118th and 119th respectively.

The brainchild of Steve Killelea, an Australian entrepreneur, the survey is meant to inform governments, international organisations, and campaign groups.

Mr Killelea said: "This is a wake-up call for leaders around the globe. Countries need to become more peaceful to solve the major challenges that the world faces - from climate change to decreasing biodiversity.

117 Nigeria
118 Russia
119 Israel
120 Sudan
121 Iraq

"There is also a strong case for the world becoming more peaceful and it is now crucial for world leaders and business to take a lead," he said.

He added that the high positions of Germany, which ranked 12th, and Japan revealed that "there can be light at the end of what may seem at the moment like a very dark tunnel."

The study is published just before the G8 summit of leading countries next week.

The authors say they are trying to supplant what they call some "woolly" definitions of peace with a scientific approach, that includes levels of violent crime, political instability, and a country's relations with its neighbours.

But questions have been raised over the way some of these factors are brought together.

The authors themselves acknowledge that there is a lack of data in many countries.

What impact the new survey will have is unclear. The authors also argue that some countries - like Japan - may benefit from sheltering under the US military umbrella.

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