Bangladesh, Chad Top

List of Corrupt Nations

LONDON -- Bangladesh and Chad were ranked most corrupt on a global watchdog group's annual list of corruption levels in 159 nations, released Tuesday. Iceland was ranked least corrupt.

Corruption undermines efforts to eradicate poverty, with graft by public officials hampering attempts to raise living standards, Transparency International said.

To form its annual corruption index, the group asked businessmen, academics and public officials about how countries they live in or do business with are perceived.

Turkmenistan, Burma, Haiti, Nigeria, Equatorial Guinea, Ivory Coast and Angola joined Chad and Bangladesh as the most corrupt countries, the report said.

After Iceland, the least corrupt were Finland, New Zealand, Denmark, Singapore, Sweden, Switzerland, Norway, Australia and Austria. The United States was ranked 17th.

EUROPE

* NALCHIK, Russia -- Security forces sealed off parts of this southern Russian city after shooting erupted during a search for suspected militants. A suspect in last week's attacks here by alleged Islamic extremists was reported killed in a clash with police.

Residents were advised not to leave their homes if possible, and parents were told to bring children home from school. The regional Interior Ministry told people to carry identity documents, submit to searches by officials and obey police commands to stop their cars.

Militants conducted a series of attacks on police and other government buildings in Nalchik on Thursday. According to official data, more than 130 people were killed in the fighting.

* PARIS -- France has suspended the former commander of its peacekeeping force in Ivory Coast over an alleged coverup following the death of a local man detained by French troops serving in the West African nation. Defense Minister Michele Alliot-Marie on Monday suspended Henri Poncet, a four-star general who is now commander of France's southwest military district, a ministry spokeswoman said.

ASIA

* ALMATY, Kazakhstan -- A leading pro-opposition news Web site has been closed by court order, and others have experienced technical problems in the run-up to a presidential election in the Central Asian state.

The Web site, www.navi.kz, was ordered to close last week in a trademark dispute that it said was orchestrated by the government, weeks after a similar case in which a publisher stopped printing seven pro-opposition newspapers.

President Nursultan Nazarbayev, who has ruled the country since 1989, is seeking another seven-year term in the Dec. 4 vote.

THE MIDDLE EAST

* TEHRAN -- Iran said it had arrested more than 20 people in connection with deadly weekend bombings in the south that the government has blamed on Britain. Saturday's blasts outside a shopping mall in the city of Ahvaz killed six people and wounded 100 and have prompted calls from Iran's hard-line press for Tehran to sever ties with London.

* GAZA CITY -- A shadowy Palestinian militant group said it had abducted two alleged collaborators with Israel and threatened to carry out more kidnappings. The announcement by the Knights of the Storm was latest sign of chaos in the Gaza Strip following Israel's withdrawal in August. The gunmen said they were affiliated with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah faction.

-- From News Services