updated 5/30/2007 4:58:09 PM ET 2007-05-30T20:58:09

The United States and Iran finished in a virtual dead heat, and way down the list, in a magazine's assessment of the peacefulness of 121 countries.

The United States placed 96th and Iran came in 97th on the global index released Wednesday by researchers at the Economist magazine.

"The United States suffers because it is the world's policeman, with high levels of militarization," Andrew Williamson, the director for economic research, said in an interview.

The data were drawn from the United Nations, the World Bank, peace groups and the magazine researchers' own assessments, Williamson said.

"We are just mechanics and technicians behind the index," he said. "We are not making judgments about foreign policy."

Norway on top, Iraq on the bottom
Norway was rated at the country most at peace, followed by New Zealand, Denmark, Ireland and Japan. Iraq was in last place, with Sudan and Israel just above.

Some two-dozen "indicators" were used, including wars fought in the last five years, arms sales, prison populations and incidence of crime.

"The United States arguably has kept the peace since 1945, but with a high level of defense spending," Leo Abruzzese, an editorial director for the magazine's intelligence unit, said at a news conference.

Western Europe was rated the world's most peaceful region, although France was ranked 34th and the United Kingdom 49th.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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