A survey of corruption levels in 146 countries has rated Ireland the 17th least corrupt country.

The survey by Berlin-based Transparency International ranked Haiti and Bangladesh at the bottom of the list
among the worst perceived levels of corruption among public officials and politicians.

At the top of the ranking for the least corrupt countries were Finland, New Zealand, Denmark and Iceland.

The watchdog said corruption was hitting the fight against poverty and robbing oil-rich countries of their development potential.

The head of the Transparency International, Peter Eigen, said developing countries in particular must root out sleaze in public works if they hope to improve the quality of life of their citizens.

Mr Eigen also urged western countries to require oil companies to open their books to show what they pay in fees, royalties and other payments to host governments and state oil companies. He added that such transparency was particularly crucial in Iraq.

The survey is based on polls reflecting the perceptions of business people and analysts from inside and outside the countries. This year's index draws on 18 surveys conducted between 2002 and 2004 conducted by 23 independent institutions.