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13:29, 27 June 2017 Tuesday
Update: 15:59, 20 March 2017 Monday

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And the world's happiest country is ... Norway
And the world's happiest country is ... Norway

And Norway surged from 4th place in last year's assessment all the way to the top spot, even though oil prices are down, the World Happiness Report 2017 said.

World Bulletin / News Desk

A bit of cold isn't keeping Norway from basking in the warmth of being the world's happiest country, a UN report out Monday found.

The top four also included Nordic neighbors neighbors Denmark and Iceland as well as Switzerland.

"All of the top four countries rank highly on all the main factors found to support happiness: caring, freedom, generosity, honesty, health, income and good governance," the summary explained.

Rounding out the top ten were Finland (5th), the Netherlands (6), Canada (7), New Zealand (8), and Australia and Sweden tied for 9th.

The entire top ten were wealthier developed nations. Yet money is not the only ingredient in the recipe for happiness, the report said.

In fact, among the wealthier countries the differences in happiness levels had a lot to do with "differences in mental health, physical health and personal relationships: the biggest single source of misery is mental illness," the report said.

"Income differences matter more in poorer countries, but even their mental illness is a major source of misery," it added.

Another major country, China, has made major economic strides in recent years. But its people are not happier than 25 years ago, it found.

The United States meanwhile slipped to the number 14 spot due to less social support and greater corruption; those very factors play into why Nordic countries fare better on this scale of smiles.

Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg welcomed the report as "a nice validation on a Monday morning.

"For many years, Norway has been behind Denmark in this ranking.

"I’ve made a point of it in many dinner speeches in the Nordics. Now I must find something new!," she said in a message on Facebook in Norwegian.



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Cyprus president seeks peace deal in Switzerland
Cyprus president seeks peace deal in Switzerland

Cypriot president Nicos Anastasiades said Monday he hopes to clinch a reunification deal laying out a new security blueprint for the divided island during a crunch summit in Switzerland this week. Anastasiades will attend United Nations-backed talks at the Alpine Crans-Montana ski resort Wednesday with "complete determination and goodwill... to achieve a desired solution", he said in a statement. He said he hopes to "abolish the anachronistic system of guarantees and intervention rights", with a deal providing for the withdrawal of the Turkish army. The eastern Mediterranean island has been divided since 1974 when Turkish troops invaded its northern third in response to an Athens-inspired coup seeking union with Greece. Turkey maintains around 35,000 troops in northern Cyprus. The so-called guarantor powers of Turkey, Britain and Greece retain the right to intervene militarily on the island. Greek and Turkish Cypriots are at odds over a new security blueprint, but their leaders are under pressure to reach an elusive peace deal. "I am going to Switzerland to participate in the Cyprus conference, with the sole aim and intent of solving the Cyprus problem," Anastasiades said. Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci is also set to attend the summit, which is expected to last at least 10 days. Greece, Turkey and Britain will send envoys along with an observer from the European Union. UN-led talks on the island hit a wall in late May after the sides failed to agree terms to advance toward a final summit. Unlocking the security question would allow Anastasiades and Akinci to make unprecedented concessions on core issues. But they have major differences on what a new security blueprint should look like. Anastasiades's internationally recognised government, backed by Athens, seeks an agreement to abolish intervention rights, with Turkish troops withdrawing from the island on a specific timeline. Turkish Cypriots and Ankara argue for some form of intervention rights and a reduced number of troops remaining in the north. Turkish Cypriots want the conference to focus on broader issues of power-sharing, property rights and territory for the creation of a new federation. Much of the progress to date has been based on strong personal rapport between Anastasiades and Akinci, leader of the breakaway Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. But that goodwill has appeared frayed in the build-up to their meeting in Switzerland. The Greek Cypriot presidential election next February has also complicated the landscape, as has the government's search for offshore oil and gas, which Ankara argues should be suspended until the negotiations have reached an outcome.