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DEMOCRACY SETS RECORD WORLDWIDE

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The worldwide total of 114 democracies is a record, but many are at risk from internal divisiveness, rampant corruption and intrusions by military and financial elites, according to a report released Thursday.

Freedom House, a New York-based pro-democracy group, said seven new countries became democracies in the past year. It said 60 percent of the world's nations are now formal democracies, but 80 percent of the global population lacks full democratic freedoms.One explanation for the disparity is that China and India, the most heavily populated countries, are listed respectively as "not free" and "partly free."

On the list of 21 "most repressive countries," the most friendly to the United States is Saudi Arabia. The "worst of the worst" repressive countries are Iraq, Sudan and North Korea, according to Joseph Ryan, Freedom House senior scholar.

"Never have so many countries been trying to follow democratic rules," said Bette Bao Lord, Freedom House chairman. Major increases in the level of freedom were found in eight countries and major declines in four.

The study said that Bosnia, despite democratic trappings, was listed as not free because of the government's inability to maintain basic civil order. It counted about 50 "interethnic, secessionist or interstate rivalries" worldwide.

India and Turkey are only "partly free" because liberties have been eroded by internal strife, the study said. It listed Russia, Ukraine, Romania and Albania among post-communist countries that still lack a truly free press and an independent judiciary.

In Latin America, corruption and the influence of narcotics traffickers were major debilitating factors for some countries.