Corruption fanned global political unrest says watchdog

Protesters in Syria There have been widespread protests in many Middle Eastern countries demanding political change

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An anti-bribery watchdog has said corruption played a key role in the political upheaval in the Middle East and across the world in 2011.

Transparency International said the protests indicated that citizens wanted leaders and institutions to be more transparent and accountable.

In its annual report, the agency ranked New Zealand, Denmark and Finland as the least corrupt among 183 countries.

Meanwhile, Somalia, North Korea and Afghanistan were ranked most corrupt.

"This year we have seen corruption on protesters'' banners be they rich or poor," said Huguette Labelle, Chair of Transparency International.

"Whether in a Europe hit by debt crisis or an Arab world starting a new political era, leaders must heed the demands for better government."

'Lower half'

Transparency International ranks countries based on a scale of zero to 10, based on various surveys carried out.

A rating of 10 indicates "very clean", while that of zero points to "highly corrupt" based on perceived levels of public sector corruption.

The agency said that most countries in the Middle East that saw political unrest got a rating of four or below.

"Most Arab Spring countries rank in the lower half of the index," it said in a statement.

It said it had issued a warning about corruption in the region as early as last year, saying that "nepotism, bribery and patronage were so deeply ingrained in daily life that even existing anti-corruption laws had little impact".

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