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Oil-producing nations rank high in corruption

LONDON - Most oil-producing nations are also rife with corruption, and oil companies should provide more information about their operations to help clean up the market, a global watchdog group said Wednesday in an annual report.

Angola, Azerbaijan, Chad, Ecuador, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Libya, Nigeria, Russia, Sudan, Venezuela and Yemen scored very low in clean government practices, said Transparency International Chairman Peter Eigen in releasing the "Corruption Perceptions Index" for 2004.

"In these countries, public contracting in the oil sector is plagued by revenues vanishing into the pockets of Western oil executives, middlemen and local officials," he said.

Eigen said oil companies could help stamp out corruption by publishing details of the fees, royalties and other payments made to governments and state oil companies.

Transparency International said 146 countries were surveyed for the report — not just oil-producers — and it found that corruption was rampant in 60 nations.

The survey found that 106 scored lower than a 5, with a top score of 10 being the least corrupt. Bangladesh, Haiti, Nigeria, Chad, Myanmar, Azerbaijan and Paraguay were perceived to be the most corrupt, all scoring lower than 2.

The United States ranks number 17, with a score of 7.5, tied with Belgium and Ireland, better than France but worse than Canada.

The index is compiled from a series of polls on perceptions of corruption made by independent organizations. This year's report is based on 18 surveys conducted since 2002, by a dozen groups. The index rates only those countries which appear in three or more surveys.

Finland, New Zealand, Denmark, Iceland, Singapore, Sweden and Switzerland were rated the least corrupt, all scoring higher than 9 out of 10 on the index.

Compared to last year's report, corruption was perceived to be worse in Bahrain, Belize, Cyprus, Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Kuwait, Luxembourg, Mauritius, Oman, Poland, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, and Trinidad and Tobago.

Improved scores were recorded for Austria, Botswana, Czech Republic, El Salvador, France, Gambia, Germany, Jordan, Switzerland, Tanzania, Thailand, Uganda, United Arab Emirates and Uruguay, Transparency International said.

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