- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 30, 2007

LONDON — Norway is the most peaceful country in the world and Iraq the least, according to a study released yesterday.

The United States ranks 96, just above Iran, out of 121 countries studied, while Russia and Israel are near the bottom, at 118 and 119, respectively.

The Global Peace Index, the first such study, rates countries from Algeria to Zimbabwe on 24 factors including levels of violence, organized crime and military expenditure.

“This is a wake-up call for leaders around the globe,” said Steve Killelea, who commissioned the study from the Economist Intelligence Unit, which is linked to the Economist magazine.

Norway, the peace-promoting Scandinavian country that brokered the 1993 Oslo Middle East accords and has sought to resolve fighting in Sri Lanka, is followed by New Zealand in second place and Denmark in third.

Iraq, which has been gripped by growing violence since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of the country, ranks at the bottom after Sudan.

Overall, the study found that small, stable countries that are part of regional blocs such as the 27-nation European Union are most likely to be more peaceful.

Income and education are crucial in promoting peace, the group said, while noting that countries that experienced turbulence in the 20th century, such as Ireland and Austria, have emerged as “peace leaders” in the 21st century.

“I believe there is a link between the peacefulness and the wealth of nations and therefore business has a key role to play in peace,” Mr. Killelea said.

The 24 factors used to measure a country’s peacefulness include ease of access to guns and small explosives, military expenditure, local corruption and the level of respect for human rights.

The United States has high levels of democracy and transparency in government, education and well-being — factors that make for peaceful societies, the group said.

However, the U.S. ranking was brought down “by its engagement in warfare and external conflict, as well as high levels of incarceration and homicide,” it said. The country’s rank “also suffered due to the large share of military expenditure from its GDP, attributed to its status as one of the world’s military-diplomatic powers,” it said.

U.S. military spending for 2006 was estimated to be about 4 percent of gross domestic product, according the CIA World Factbook.

The group plans to publish the index annually for the next two years, and review the frequency of publication thereafter.

• Desikan Thirunarayanapuram in Washington contributed to this report.

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