World Briefs / Greece listed most corrupt

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BERLIN -- The countries worst hit by the European financial crisis are also perceived as being among the most corrupt in Western Europe, and those perceptions appear to be getting increasingly negative, an international watchdog said in a report released Wednesday.

Transparency International's annual Corruption Perceptions Index shows Spain, Portugal, Italy and Greece with the lowest scores in Western Europe.

On a scale newly introduced for this year's report, where 0 is "highly corrupt" and 100 is "very clean," Spain was ranked highest of the four in place 30 with a score of 65. Portugal followed in place 33 with a score of 63, followed by Italy in place 72 with a score of 42 and Greece in 94th place with a score of 36.

The index measures the perception of corruption in the public sector and not the financial sector, but Transparency's Europe director Anne Koch told The Associated Press the results clearly indicate that people in countries worst hit by the crisis perceive corruption to be widespread.

Iran claims drone data

TEHRAN, Iran -- Iran said Wednesday it extracted data from a U.S. drone and that capturing the unmanned aerial vehicle proves the Persian Gulf nation can protect itself from foreign aggression. The United States disputes Iran's claim it seized a drone.

The state-run Press TV news channel showed images Tuesday of what it said was the ScanEagle drone that had been captured intact. The aircraft was seized after violating the Islamic Republic's airspace, Iranian officials said.

White House press secretary Jay Carney said Tuesday the U.S. has "no evidence Iranian claims are true." The Navy "has fully accounted for all unmanned aerial vehicles operating in the Middle East region," Commander Jason Salata, a spokesman for the U.S. Fifth Fleet in Bahrain, said Tuesday.

Duchess' hospital duped

LONDON -- A hoax call from Australia duped staff at the London hospital where Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge, was recovering from acute morning sickness into giving details of her condition, the medical facility revealed Wednesday.

The King Edward VII Hospital, famed for its discretion and favored by the British royal family and other high-profile patients, confirmed that an update on the duchess' condition was given to an Australian TV station presenter posing as Queen Elizabeth II.

The duchess is in the early stages of her first pregnancy with her husband, Prince William.

Collision: 4 dead, 7 missing

THE HAGUE, Netherlands -- Four crew members died and seven were missing in the icy waters of the North Sea, after a cargo ship collided with another vessel and sank off the Dutch coast Wednesday night, rescuers said.

"We can confirm that four bodies have been found, along with 13 people rescued alive," a Coast Guard spokesman said.

A massive air and sea rescue operation to find the remaining seven sailors was called off at about 2 a.m.

The 485-foot Baltic Ace collided with the 440-foot container ship Corvus J in darkness near busy shipping lanes some 40 miles off the coast of the southern Netherlands. The Baltic Ace, carrying a cargo of cars, had a crew of 24 which was forced to abandon ship as it sank quickly.

Also in the world ...

The Serbian ambassador to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, Branislav Milinkovic, 52, jumped to his death from a multistory parking garage Tuesday afternoon at the Brussels airport, diplomats said Wednesday. ... Suicide bombers in an explosives-laden car struck a Pakistani military base in the volatile South Waziristan tribal region Wednesday, killing three soldiers, according to a senior security official in Peshawar.

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