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International Information: A

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Afghanistan is a nation in southwestern Asia.
It is a country of great mountains, scorching deserts, fertile valleys, and rolling plains.
Afghanistan does not have a sea coast.
The country is bordered by Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan on the north, China on the far northeast, Pakistan on the east and south, and Iran on the west.
Official Name
Da Afghanistan Jamhouriat (in Pashto) or Jamhury Afghanistan (in Dari), both meaning Republic of Afghanistan.
251,773 sq. mi. (652,090 sq. km).
Greatest distances
east-west, 820 mi. (1,320 km)
north-south, 630 mi. (1,012 km).
Highest--Nowshak, 24,557 ft. (7,485 m) above sea level.
Lowest--In Sistan Basin, 1,640 ft. (500 m) above sea level.
Estimated 1996 population--19,494,000; density, 77 persons per sq. mi. (30 persons per sq. km); distribution, 80 percent rural, 20 percent urban. 1979 census - 15,551,358. Estimated 2001 population - 22,337,000.
Chief Products
Agriculture - barley, corn, cotton, fruits, Karakul skins, mutton, nuts, rice, vegetables, wheat, wool.
Manufacturing - cement, processed foods, rugs, shoes, textiles.
Mining - coal, lapis lazuli, natural gas.
National Anthem
"Sorode Meli" ("National Anthem").
Capital city
3543 miles from London
GMT +4½ hours
International aircraft prefix
International dialling code
00 93
Afghani (AFA)
Pashtu, Afghan Persian (Dari), Turkic languages, plus minor languages
National holidays
28 April - Victory of the Muslim Nation
4 May - Remembrance Day for Martyrs and the Disabled
19 August - Independence Day
Embassy details
See British High Commission, Islamabad, Pakistan
National Anthem
"Afghanistan National Anthem".
National flag
3 equal vertical bands of black, red and green. (Old one was 3 equal width horizontal bands of green, white and black with a centred gold emblem which was encircled by 2 crossed scimitars.)

The Channel Islands are a group of islands in the English Channel. They are British Crown dependencies, but they lie only about 10 to 30 miles (16 to 48 kilometres) off the French coast. The four main islands are Jersey, Guernsey, Alderney, and Sark. The group also includes several smaller islands and a number of tiny, rocky isles.
The Channel Islands have a total land area of 75 square miles (195 square kilometres) and a population of about 143,000. English is the official language, and tourism is the leading industry. The mild climate and fertile soil help make farming important as well. Farmers grow fruit, vegetables, and flowers for export. Jersey, Guernsey, and Alderney have long been famous for their fine breeds of dairy cattle. Banking and other financial services are also major economic activities.
England gained control of the Channel Islands during the 1000's, and the islands have remained British territory ever since. However, they have been largely self-governing since the 1200's. British laws do not apply to the Channel Islands unless the islands are specifically named in them.

Albania is a small, mountainous nation in the Balkan Peninsula of southeastern Europe.
It is one of the least developed countries in Europe.
Most of the people make their living through agriculture.
Albania's name in Albanian, the official language, is Shqiperia, which means The Land of the Eagle.
The country's full, official name is Republika e Shqiperise (Republic of Albania).
Albania was part of the Ottoman Empire for more than 400 years.
It gained its independence in 1912. From 1944 until the early 1990's, Albania was a Communist country.
11,100 sq. mi. (28,748 sq. km).
Greatest distances
north-south, 215 mi. (346 km);
east-west, 90 mi. (145 km).
175 mi. (282 km).
Estimated 1996 population - 3,429,000; density, 309 persons per sq. mi. (119 per sq. km); distribution, 63 percent rural, 37 percent urban. 1989 census - 3,182,417. Estimated 2001 population - 3,628,000.
Chief Products
Agriculture - corn, potatoes, sugar beets, wheat.
Mining - chromite, copper, petroleum.
Manufacturing - cement, fertilisers, food products, textiles.
Capital city
National Anthem
Hymn to the Flag
1178 miles from London
GMT +1 hours
International aircraft prefix
International dialling code
00 355
Lek (ALL)
Albanian and Greek
Vehicle nationality plates
National holidays
28 November - Independence Day
Embassy details
British Embassy
Rruga Skenderberg 12
Telephone (00 355) (42) 34973
Opening hours 0730 to 1600 Monday to Thursday, 0730 to 1330 Friday (local time)
National flag
Red background with a centred two-headed black eagle

Algeria is a large country in northern Africa.
Among African countries, only Sudan is larger.
Northern Algeria stretches along the Mediterranean Sea.
The country's narrow Mediterranean region has a warm climate and rich farmland.
Almost all Algerians live in this region.
To the south, the sun-scorched wastes of the Sahara cover more than four-fifths of Algeria.
Beneath the surface of this desert area lie huge deposits of natural gas and petroleum.
Most Algerians are of mixed Arab and Berber descent. However, the people form two distinct cultural groups - Arab and Berber. Each group has its own customs and language. But nearly all Algerians are Muslims and are thus united by their religion, Islam.
For about 130 years, Algeria belonged to France. In 1962, it gained independence following a bloody revolution. Algerians then formed a socialist government that began a program of rapid industrial development. The program has been financed chiefly by income from Algeria's government-owned natural gas and petroleum industries. But industry has not grown fast enough to eliminate poverty and widespread unemployment.
Official Name
Al-Jumhuriyah al-Jaz'iriyah ad Dimuqratiyah wa ash-Sha'biyah (Democratic and Popular Republic of Algeria).
919,595 sq. mi. (2,381,741 sq. km).
Greatest distances
east-west, 1,500 mi. (2,400 km);
north-south, 1,300 mi. (2,100 km).
Coastline - 750 mi. (1,200 km).
Highest elevation - Mount Tahat, 9,573 ft. (2,918 m) above sea level.
Lowest elevation - Chott Melrhir, 102 ft. (31 m) below sea level.
Estimated 1996 population - 29,350,000; density, 32 persons per sq. mi. (12 per sq. km); distribution, 56 percent urban, 44 percent rural. 1987 census - 23,038,942. Estimated 2001 population - 33,510,000.
Chief Products
Agriculture - wheat, barley, milk, potatoes, citrus fruits, grapes, dates, meat, olives, cork.
Manufacturing - liquid natural gas, refined petroleum products, iron and steel, transport vehicles, construction materials, textiles.
Mining - natural gas, petroleum, iron ore, phosphate rock, mercury, zinc, lead.
National Anthem
"Kassaman" ("We Pledge").
Capital city
1035 miles from London
GMT +1 hour
International aircraft prefix
International dialling code
00 213
Algerian Dinar (DZD)
Arabic and French
National holidays
1 November - Anniversary of the Revolution
National Anthem
("National Anthem").
Embassy details
British Embassy
Residence Cassiopee
Batiment B
7 Chemin des Glycines
(BP 08 Alger-Gare 16000)
Telephone (00 213) (2) 230068
Opening hours 0815 to 1430 Sunday, Wednesday and Thursday, 0815 to 1700 Monday and Tuesday (local time)
National flag
2 vertical green and white bands with a five-pointed star inside a red crescent

Andaman and Nicobar Islands are two island groups in the eastern Bay of Bengal. They form a Union Territory of India and cover an area of about 3,185 square miles (8,250 square kilometers). The capital, Port Blair, is the only town. It is in the Andaman Islands. Most of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands are uninhabited.
The Andaman group consists of 204 islands and lies 75 miles (120 kilometers) north of the Nicobar group. The Andaman Islands are hilly, and most of them are covered with dense forests. Palm trees abound on the 19 islands in the Nicobar group.
Some of the Andaman ethnic groups have little contact with the outside world. Most islanders follow their own religious and local customs, although many Nicobarese have accepted Christianity.
Since the earthquake and tsunami on Boxing Day 2004, the Andaman and Nicobar Islands' population was greatly reduced. One of the islands, Car Nicobar, has a higest point of 12 metres, and was particularly devastated.

Andorra, one of the smallest countries in the world, lies high in the Pyrenees mountains between France and Spain.
The official name of Andorra in Catalan, a language that closely resembles the Provencal spoken in southern France, is Valls d'Andorra (Valleys of Andorra).
Many tourists visit Andorra each year. They enjoy the rugged beauty of the mountains, the old churches, and the quaintness of the country.
In addition, large numbers of people go to Andorra each year to purchase goods that are relatively inexpensive because Andorra charges almost no tax on them.
The steep, rocky mountains that surround Andorra cut the country off from the rest of the world for hundreds of years.
As a result, Andorra's boundaries have changed little since the Middle Ages.
Andorra's legal system is based on ancient laws and common law (rules based on customs) that date from the Roman Empire.
175 sq. mi. (453 sq. km).
Greatest distances
north-south, about 16 mi. (26 km);
east-west, about 19 mi. (31 km).
Highest - Coma Pedrosa, 9,665 ft. (2,946 m) above sea level.
Lowest - 2,756 ft. (840 m) above sea level.
Estimated 1996 population - 59,000; density, 337 persons per sq. mi. (130 per sq. km); distribution, 65 percent urban, 35 percent rural. 1986 census - 46,976. Estimated 2001 population - 60,000.
Chief Products
Agriculture - potatoes, tobacco.
Manufacturing - cigarettes and other tobacco products.
National Anthem
"The Great Charlemagne"
Capital city
Andorra la Vella
GMT +1 hour
International aircraft prefix
International dialling code
00 376
French Franc (FRF)
Andorran Peseta (ADR)
Catalan, French and Castilian
Vehicle nationality plates
National holidays
8 September - Mare de Deu de Meritxell
Embassy details
British Consulate
Casa Jacint Pons 3/2
La Massana
Telephone (00 376) 839840
National flag
3 vertical bands of blue, yellow and red with coat of arms centred in yellow band

Angola is a country on the southwest coast of Africa.
Its official name is the Republic of Angola.
Cabinda, in the northwest, is a district of Angola. The Congo River and Congo (Kinshasa) separate it from the rest of the country.
Most of Angola's people live in rural areas and work on farms.
Angola produces a variety of crops, including bananas, coffee, corn, sugar cane, and a starchy root called cassava.
Angola also has many natural resources, including diamonds, iron ore, and petroleum.
Luanda is a major African seaport.
Angola became independent in November 1975. Parts of it had been ruled by Portugal for most of the period since the 1500's.
481,354 sq. mi. (1,246,700 sq. km).
Greatest distances
north-south, 850 mi. (1,368 km);
east-west, 800 mi. (1,287 km).
Coastline - 928 mi. (1,493 km).
Highest - Moco, 8,596 ft. (2,620 m).
Lowest - sea level.
Estimated 1996 population - 11,440,000; density, 24 persons per sq. mi. (9 persons per sq. km); distribution, 68 percent rural, 32 percent urban. 1970 census - 5,646,166. Estimated 2001 population - 13,473,000.
Chief Products
Agriculture - bananas, cassava, coffee, corn, sugar cane.
Manufacturing - food processing, cement, chemicals, textiles.
Mining - diamonds, petroleum.
National Anthem
Forward Angola
Capital city
GMT +1 hour
International aircraft prefix
International dialling code
00 244
New Kwanza (AON)
Portuguese and Bantu
National holidays
11 November - Independence Day
Embassy details
British Embassy
Rua Diogo Cao
4 (Caixa Postal 1244)
Telephone (00 244) (2) 334582
Opening hours 0800 to 1400 Monday and Friday, 0800 to 1700 Tuesday and Thursday (local time)
National flag
2 horizontal bands of red and black with a centered yellow 5-pointed star inside a half cogwheel crossed by a machete

Anguilla is a dependency of Britain. Anguilla covers an area of about 37 square miles (96 square kilometres) and has a population of about 7,000. It has a dry, hot climate and is covered by low-lying plant life. Tourism has replaced fishing and salt processing as Anguilla's major industry. A community called The Valley is the island's capital.
Christopher Columbus may have sighted the island in 1493 during his second voyage to the New World. Explorers named the island Anguilla (Latin for eel) because of its long, narrow shape. It became a colony of Britain in 1650. In 1883, Britain made Anguilla and the Caribbean islands of St. Christopher (now called St. Kitts) and Nevis a single colony. It became an associated state of Britain in 1967. But most Anguillans favoured separation from St. Kitts and Nevis. In 1980, Anguilla officially became a separate British dependency.

Antarctica is the ice-buried continent that covers and surrounds the South Pole. This nearly barren land forms the coldest and iciest region in the world. It is slightly colder than the region around the North Pole. The North Pole is located in the Arctic Ocean. But the South Pole lies near the centre of the Antarctic continent, on a high windy plateau of ice and snow.
Antarctica covers about 5,400,000 square miles (14,000,000 square kilometres). It is larger in area than either Europe or Australia. However, Antarctica would be the smallest continent if it did not have its icecap. This icy layer, which averages approximately 7,100 feet (2,200 metres) thick, increases Antarctica's surface area and also makes Antarctica the highest continent in terms of average elevation. The average elevation of Antarctica is 7,500 feet (2,300 metres) above sea level.
Stormy waters of the Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific oceans isolate Antarctica from the other continents. Ships must steer around towering icebergs and break through huge ice piles to reach the continent. On land, gigantic glaciers move slowly downhill toward the sea.
Temperatures in Antarctica rarely reach above 32 °F. (0 °C). Scientists recorded the world's lowest temperature, -128.6 °F. (-89.2 °C), at Vostok Station, on July 21, 1983. Strong, bitter winds also chill the air. Antarctica's inland plateau has one of the driest climates on earth. It receives no rain and hardly any new snow each year.
Only a few small plants and insects can survive in Antarctica's dry interior. But various animals thrive in the surrounding waters, including fish, krill, penguins, seals, whales, and many kinds of flying birds. The continent has deposits of coal and metal ores. Geologists have found evidence that petroleum may be present in the seabed offshore. None of Antarctica's mineral resources have been developed.
Long before Antarctica was discovered, ancient Greek philosophers believed that a continent covered the southern end of the earth. Antarctica was first sighted in 1820. During the mid-1800's, explorers sailed along its coast and learned that it was large enough to be called a continent. Inland exploration began in the early 1900's. The Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen reached the South Pole in 1911. In a dramatic race, he arrived there five weeks ahead of a British expedition led by Captain Robert F. Scott.
In 1959, 12 countries signed a treaty to use the continent mainly for research. Today, scientists maintain year-round research stations in Antarctica. Activities on the continent encourage international cooperation and the sharing of scientific knowledge. Several countries have claimed parts of the continent in the hope of controlling mineral resources found there. The United States and many other nations refuse to recognise these claims.
The southern parts of the Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific oceans meet to form a body of water often called the Antarctic Ocean or Southern Ocean. Scientists disagree about where the northern limit of the Antarctic Ocean is located. Most place it somewhere between about 40° and 60° south latitude. Some define it as about 50° S, based on the location of a massive current called the Antarctic Circumpolar Current (ACC) that flows from east to west around Antarctica. Others define the boundary as about 55° S, near the center of the Antarctic Convergence. The Antarctic Convergence is an irregular band of water about 25 miles (40 kilometers) wide. Within it, cold southern waters meet warmer, saltier northern waters.
Antarctica originally belonged to a land mass that included Africa, Australia, India, and South America. By about 140 million years ago, the land had begun to break apart. The parts gradually drifted to their present locations, and Antarctica became a separate continent. Many millions of years ago, Antarctica was an ice-free continent. Scientists have found fossils of trees and of dinosaurs and small mammals that once lived there. Glaciers began to form around the south pole about 38 million years ago. They grew rapidly about 13 million years ago, forming a thick layer of ice and snow known as the Antarctic icecap. The icecap has buried almost all of Antarctica for the last 5 million years. The Antarctic icecap is a thick layer of ice and snow that buries most of the continent. It formed from layers of snow pressed together over millions of years. Air between the grains of snow was pushed out or trapped in bubbles as the bottom layers hardened into ice.
Today, the Antarctic icecap forms the largest body of fresh water or ice in the world. Its volume of 71/4 million cubic miles (30 million cubic kilometres) represents about 70 percent of the world's fresh water. If the ice melted, the earth's oceans would rise and flood coastal cities around the world. The icecap's thickest parts are located over deep basins that dip far below sea level. In those areas, the icecap is up to 15,700 feet (4,800 metres) thick. At its highest points, over mountain ranges, the icecap rises as high as 13,500 feet (4,100 metres) above sea level. The weight of the icecap causes the ice to spread outward and slide toward the coasts. Ice near the coasts moves as much as 660 feet (200 metres) a year. Glaciers in narrow valleys move even faster. In some areas, the icecap breaks and forms crevasses (cracks) more than 100 feet (30 metres) deep.
The Transantarctic Mountains cross the entire continent. Several ranges make up the Transantarctic chain. Some peaks rise more than 14,000 feet (4,300 metres). The Transantarctic chain has the largest of the ice-free, rocky areas known as dry valleys. These valleys were carved by glaciers that once occupied them and later retreated. Snow that falls in dry valleys is swept away by winds. Some of the valleys have lakes. The Transantarctic Mountains divide Antarctica into two regions: (1) East Antarctica and (2) West Antarctica.
East Antarctica faces the Atlantic and Indian oceans and covers more than half the continent. The region consists of rocks more than 570 million years old. The rocks form what geologists call a Precambrian shield. Mountains, valleys, and glaciers mark the coast of East Antarctica. A deep, long crack in the earth's surface known as a rift valley cuts into the coastline from the Indian Ocean to the Prince Charles Mountains. The central part of East Antarctica is a plateau about 10,000 feet (3,000 metres) above sea level. Winds on the plateau blow the snow into ridges, called sastrugi, up to 6 feet (1.8 metres) high. The South Pole lies on the plateau, at the center of the continent. This pole, also known as the south geographic pole, is the earth's southernmost point, where all lines of longitude meet. East Antarctica also has the south magnetic pole, the farthest point on the earth in the direction of magnetic south. It may move as much as 5 to 10 miles (8 to 16 kilometres) in a year. Today, it is off the coast of Wilkes Land.
West Antarctica borders the Pacific Ocean. It contains hardly any of the old rock of East Antarctica. West Antarctica developed later as part of the Ring of Fire, a string of volcanoes encircling the Pacific Ocean. Much of the region lies below sea level. The Antarctic icecap fills deep basinlike areas of land. If the icecap melted, West Antarctica would become a group of islands. The Antarctic Peninsula is a mountainous, S-shaped finger of land that points toward South America. In fact, the peninsula forms a continuation of the Andes Mountain chain of South America. Several islands lie near the peninsula. The South Shetland Islands to the west include Deception Island, an active volcano. West Antarctica includes several other mountain ranges and volcanoes. Vinson Massif, the highest point in Antarctica at 16,864 feet (5,140 metres), stands in the Ellsworth Mountains near the peninsula. An ice-filled rift valley separates the Transantarctic Mountains from Ross Island. Mount Erebus, Antarctica's most active volcano, lies on the island. It rises 12,448 feet (3,794 metres). Occasionally, it spurts pieces of volcanic rock.
Two large gulfs cut into Antarctica at opposite ends of the Transantarctic Mountains--the Ross Sea and the Weddell Sea. Smaller bays indent the coastline. Various channels separate offshore islands from the mainland. For example, the Bransfield Strait separates the South Shetland Islands from the mainland. Broad, flat sheets of the icecap called ice shelves float in several of Antarctica's bays and channels. The Ross Ice Shelf, the largest one, measures about 2,300 feet (700 metres) thick at the inner edge and about 660 feet (200 meters) thick at the outermost edge. In summer, the outer edges of the ice shelves break away and form immense, flat icebergs. These icebergs are larger, smoother, and more evenly shaped than icebergs in other parts of the world. Scientists have measured Antarctic icebergs with an area as huge as 5,000 square miles (13,000 square kilometres). Other icebergs form when a chunk of ice breaks off the lower end of a coastal glacier and flows into the water. This process, called calving, is also common in Greenland. Each winter, the surface of the Antarctic Ocean freezes into a sheet of ice. In summer, this sheet breaks into pieces called ice floes. Winds and waves push the floes against one another, forming thick masses known as pack ice. Some pack ice piles up in ridges against the shore. In winter, pack ice extends as far as 1,000 miles (1,600 kilometres) from the coast.
Antarctica's climate varies from extremely cold, dry conditions on the inland plateau to milder, moister conditions along the coasts. Many people call the plateau a "polar desert." It has only about 2 inches (5 centimetres) of snowfall each year. Annual coastal rain and snowfall averages 24 inches (61 centimetres). The Antarctic winter lasts from May through August. Summer lasts from December through February. July temperatures range from -40 °F to -94 °F (-40 °C to -70 °C) inland and from -5 °F to -22 °F (-21 °C to -30 °C) on the peninsula's coast. January temperatures range from 5 °F to -31 °F (-15 °C to -35 °C) inland and reach 32 °F (0 °C) on the coast. Northern islands may have summer temperatures of 50 °F (10 °C). Icy winds make the Antarctic air feel even colder. Winds that sweep downward from the plateau can average 44 miles (70 kilometres) per hour. Gusts often reach the coast at 120 miles (190 kilometres) per hour.
Few plants grow in Antarctica because of the ice-covered land and the harsh climate. Mosses are the most common Antarctic plants. They cling to rocky areas, mostly on the coasts. Only two flowering plants grow in Antarctica. Both live on the northern part of the Antarctic Peninsula. One is a grass that forms dense mats on sunny slopes. The other, an herb, grows in short cushionlike bunches. Simpler organisms known as algae grow on snow, in lakes, and on ice surrounding the continent. Some algae look like pink or green snow. Other organisms called lichens cling to rocks as mosses do. Some lichens survive by bunching together to conserve water. Scientists have discovered rows of black, white, and green lichens growing in tiny cracks in dry valleys. Small plants and algae also drift on the surface of the Antarctic Ocean.
Only a few insects and other tiny animals spend their entire lives on the Antarctic mainland. The continent's largest land animal is a wingless midge, a type of fly no more than 1/2 inch (12 millimetres) long. Most land animals live at the edges of the continent. To avoid freezing to death, some lice, mites, and ticks cling to mosses, the fur of seals, or the feathers of birds. Unlike the continent, the Antarctic Ocean has abundant wildlife. The most common animal of the ocean is krill, a small, shrimplike creature that feeds on tiny floating organisms. Many other Antarctic animals depend on krill for food, and several countries catch and sell krill as a protein-rich food for people. The squid - a soft, boneless sea animal - also is eaten by many Antarctic animals. In addition, about 100 kinds of fish live in the ocean, including Antarctic cod, icefish, and plunderfish. Several kinds of whales migrate to Antarctica for the summer. Those that feed on krill are blue whales, fin whales, humpback whales, minke whales, right whales, and sei whales. The blue whale is the largest animal that has ever lived. This rare giant grows up to 100 feet (30 metres) long. Antarctic whales that eat fish and squid include killer whales, southern bottlenose whales, southern fourtooth whales, and sperm whales. Killer whales also hunt seals, penguins, and smaller whales. Various kinds of seals live in Antarctica. They spend most of their lives in the water, where they swim, dive, and catch food. Most of them nest on the coasts. The Antarctic fur seal nests on nearby islands. The largest seal in the world is the southern elephant seal, which feeds on squid. The males may reach a length of 21 feet (6.4 metres). Weddell seals and Ross seals eat fish and squid. Crabeater seals and Antarctic fur seals eat krill. Leopard seals hunt other seals as well as penguins. During the 1800's and early 1900's, hunters greatly reduced the number of whales and Antarctic fur seals. Today, international wildlife laws prohibit or restrict the killing of these animals. Penguins are the animals most often associated with Antarctica. These birds cannot fly, and they waddle awkwardly on land. But they are skillful swimmers. They streak through the ocean, diving for fish and other food. Six kinds of penguins breed on the continent. Playful Adelie penguins, the most common kind, build nests of pebbles on the coasts. The tall, quieter emperor penguin grows to about 4 feet (1.2 metres). After the female emperor penguin lays an egg on ice, the male rests the egg on his feet and warms it with the lower part of his belly. Chinstrap penguins, gentoo penguins, king penguins, and macaroni penguins nest on the Antarctic Peninsula and on islands. Rockhopper penguins nest only on islands north of Antarctica. More than 40 kinds of flying birds spend the summer in Antarctica. Many types nest on land but spend most of their time diving for food. These birds include albatrosses, prions, and a large group of sea birds known as petrels. Other birds, such as cormorants, gulls, skuas, and terns, return to land more frequently. Some of them steal food from the nests of other birds. Some land birds, such as sheathbills, nest on the peninsula. Others, including pintails and pipits, nest on islands.
Geologists have found small copper deposits in the Antarctic Peninsula. East Antarctica has traces of chromium, gold, iron, lead, manganese, molybdenum, and zinc. Coal beds lie within the Transantarctic Mountains. Scientific drilling and coring operations have revealed the possibility of petroleum reserves in the Ross Sea and the Bransfield Strait. Most of Antarctica's minerals occur in amounts too small to be mined efficiently. Icebergs, rough waves, and strong winds hamper drilling operations at sea. In addition, many scientists fear that large-scale mining would harm Antarctica's environment. However, researchers also hope to find ways to use the icecap as a source of fresh water. For example, large icebergs might someday be towed to desert lands.
People wrote about a southern continent centuries before Antarctica was discovered. Ancient Greek philosophers supposed that a land mass at the earth's southern end was needed to balance the weight of the northern lands. The name Antarctica later came from two Greek words meaning opposite the bear. The Bear is a constellation seen from the northernmost region of the earth. During the A.D. 100's, the Greek geographer Ptolemy gave this undiscovered continent the Latin name Terra Australis Incognita (unknown southern land). He believed the land was populated and fertile. But many people thought a region too hot for human beings surrounded the equator and blocked the way south. That idea discouraged southern exploration for many years. In 1772, English navigator James Cook began his search for the southern continent. The British navy instructed Cook to sail as far south as possible. In January 1773, he crossed the Antarctic Circle, an imaginary line circling the earth at about 66° south latitude. A year later, Cook reached a "farthest south" position of 71 degrees 10 minutes south latitude. Huge ice blocks prevented him from going farther, however, and he never sighted land. The expedition sailed around the world at far southern latitudes, demonstrating that any unseen continent was limited to the vicinity of the South Pole. Cook's voyage also revealed southern waters filled with seals and whales. During the 1800's, many hunters explored the area. In 1819, a British sealer named William Smith discovered the South Shetland Islands. Nobody knows who first saw the Antarctic continent. Many historians divide the credit among three men who made separate voyages in 1820. In January of that year, Captain Fabian von Bellingshausen of the Russian Imperial Navy reported reaching a point only 20 miles (32 kilometres) from the Antarctic Peninsula. Some historians believe that he saw land but thought it was ice. That same month, Captain Edward Bransfield of the British navy journeyed south of the South Shetland Islands and probably saw the Antarctic Peninsula. In November, an American sealer named Nathaniel Brown Palmer reported seeing land during a sealing expedition in the same area. Some geographers later called the peninsula Graham Land in honor of James Graham, who headed the British navy in Bransfield's time. Others called it Palmer Land. The United States and the nations of the British Commonwealth finally agreed to the term Antarctic Peninsula in 1964. Historians also are unsure of who first set foot on Antarctica. Some believe that an American sealer named John Davis went ashore at Hughes Bay on the tip of the peninsula in 1821. But Davis did not know if he had reached the continent or an island. Whalers made the first known landing on the continent in the late 1800's. In 1823, a British sealer named James Weddell sailed south in search of hunting waters. He reached about 74° south latitude, farther than earlier voyagers had sailed, and found what is now called the Weddell Sea. More than 75 years passed before explorers proved that the South Pole is located on land. During that time, scientific interest in the Antarctic region increased. In 1831, an English whaler named John Biscoe became the first to spot land in East Antarctica. This area lies opposite India. Biscoe named it Enderby Land after the whaling company that owned his ship. In 1837, the king of France sent Lieutenant Jules Dumont d'Urville to claim some southern lands for France. D'Urville's first attempt led him to discover what is now called Joinville Island, off the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula. He began his next Antarctic voyage from Tasmania, an island near Australia. In January 1840, he sighted icy cliffs rising along the East Antarctic coastline. Many small penguins dotted the pack ice that blocked his way to the land. D'Urville named both the land and the penguins after his wife, Adelie. About the same time that d'Urville sighted land, Lieutenant Charles Wilkes of the U.S. Navy headed an expedition to perform scientific research. Wilkes's most important contribution to the study of Antarctica was his coastal exploration. His ship moved from Adelie Coast toward Enderby Land, tracing more than 1,500 miles (2,400 kilometres) of coastline. This distance showed that Antarctica was large enough to be called a continent. From 1839 to 1843, the British explorer James Clark Ross made several discoveries. Ross was the first person to go beyond the pack ice surrounding Antarctica. He sailed into the gulf that is now called the Ross Sea. Ross also discovered an island with two volcanoes, which he named after his ships, Erebus and Terror. He found the gulf barricaded by a towering sheet of ice, now known as the Ross Ice Shelf. In 1895, a Norwegian businessman named Henryk Johan Bull made the first known landing on the Antarctic mainland. He and his whaling crew went ashore at Cape Adare, a point on the Ross Sea facing New Zealand. The first inland exploration of Antarctica took place from 1901 to 1904. Robert Falcon Scott of the British navy led a team of explorers and scientists to the Ross Sea. In November 1902, Scott and two other men headed south across the Ross Ice Shelf. But illness, harsh weather, and lack of food forced them to rejoin the team earlier than planned. Another group moved up a glacier through the Transantarctic Mountains and reached the edge of the icy inland plateau. Ernest Shackleton, a member of Scott's team, returned to Antarctica in 1907. Part of his expedition headed for the south magnetic pole, the farthest point on the earth in the direction of magnetic south. They reached it in January 1909. The main group headed for the south geographic pole, the meeting point of lines of longitude. Food shortages forced the men to turn back early. But they had arrived within 97 miles (156 kilometers) of the pole, close enough to prove that the pole was on land rather than beneath a frozen sea.
At the opposite end of the earth, Arctic explorers reached the North Pole in 1909. In June 1910, Captain Scott left London, hoping to win for Great Britain the honor of reaching the South Pole first. In October, while Scott was in Australia, he received a telegram from the Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen. The telegram informed Scott that Amundsen, too, was going to Antarctica. Amundsen originally had hoped to be the first North Pole explorer. He switched his goal when he heard that the North Pole had been reached. The race to the South Pole became one of the most famous events in the history of Antarctica. Amundsen and Scott never met, but both knew that they were racing for the same prize. Amundsen and his four assistants began crossing the Ross Ice Shelf from the Bay of Whales on Oct. 19, 1911. To reach the inland plateau, they had to carve their own route along an unexplored glacier in the Queen Maud Mountains. The men journeyed on skis and wore light, warm furs. Fifty-two Eskimo dogs pulled their four sleds carrying food and supplies. Amundsen marked his route and food storage areas with mounds of snow. He shot the weakest dogs for food, when they were no longer needed to pull the sleds. Scott set out with 15 other men on Nov. 1, 1911, from Cape Evans, Ross Island. This location was about 60 miles (97 kilometres) farther from the pole than Amundsen's starting point. However, Scott's expedition reached the plateau by way of the Beardmore Glacier, a known route. Scott used motor-powered sleds to carry some supplies. Ponies and dogs pulled other sleds. But the ponies and motor sleds bogged down in the soft snow. The men had to drag the sleds, and food soon ran low. Scott crossed the plateau accompanied by four men. Amundsen's group arrived at the South Pole on Dec. 14, 1911. They used special navigating instruments to calculate their position. Amundsen left his tent, a Norwegian flag, and a message for Scott at the pole. The group returned to their base on Jan. 25, 1912, with only 11 dogs, but with all five men in good health. Scott's group reached the pole on Jan. 17, 1912, greeted by Amundsen's flag. Cold, hunger, and exhaustion had severely weakened the explorers. They photographed themselves at the pole and began their return. All five men perished on the way. Two of them died after they were injured on the trail. In late March, a long blizzard forced Scott and his two remaining assistants to camp only 11 miles (18 kilometres) away from food and supplies. A search party found their frozen bodies inside the tent eight months later.
Exploration by air provided a new way to study Antarctica. In 1928, the Australian explorer Sir Hubert Wilkins surveyed the Antarctic Peninsula and nearby islands in the first airplane voyage over Antarctic land. In November 1929, the U.S. Navy officer Richard E. Byrd led the first flight over the South Pole. A Norwegian pilot, Bernt Balchen, flew Byrd's crew from the Bay of Whales to the pole and back. The flight lasted less than 16 hours. This journey was part of an expedition that Byrd supervised from 1928 to 1930. In a second expedition from 1933 to 1935, Byrd and his assistants traveled by plane and tractor over the Antarctic interior. They studied the icecap, the earth's magnetism, cosmic rays, weather, and geology. In 1935, the U.S. engineer Lincoln Ellsworth and the English-born pilot Herbert Hollick-Kenyon took off from Dundee Island, north of the Antarctic Peninsula, hoping to make the first flight across the continent. Near the Weddell Sea, they discovered what are now called the Ellsworth Mountains. Their plane had to land four times because of storms and a fuel shortage. They finally completed the crossing on foot at the Bay of Whales. In 1946 and 1947, Byrd commanded the U.S. Navy's Operation Highjump, the largest Antarctic expedition by a single country. Operation Highjump sent 4,700 men, 13 ships, and 23 airplanes and helicopters to Antarctica. The expedition members discovered new land, including 26 islands. They photographed about 1,400 miles (2,300 kilometres) of previously unexplored coastline. That same year, Captain Finn Ronne led a private U.S. air expedition to West Antarctica. Ronne explored areas of the Weddell Sea that had never been seen. The crew included Ronne's wife, Edith, and Jennie Darlington, the wife of his chief pilot. They were the first women to spend a winter on the continent.
Scientific knowledge of Antarctica increased worldwide during the International Geophysical Year (IGY), a program in which scientists carried out research and shared their findings. The IGY began on July 1, 1957, and ended on Dec. 31, 1958. During the IGY, 12 countries established more than 50 scientific stations on Antarctica and nearby islands. These countries were Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Chile, France, Great Britain, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, the Soviet Union, the Union of South Africa, and the United States. The United States set up a station at the South Pole, plus five coastal stations and one other inland station. The Soviet Union built a station at a point it named the Pole of Inaccessibility. This station lies at the point farthest from all coasts. IGY researchers in Antarctica studied such topics as earthquakes, gravity, magnetism, oceans, and solar activity. Meteorologists (scientists who study weather) determined air pressure, humidity, temperature, and wind direction and prepared Antarctica's first complete weather charts. Other scientists measured the thickness of the icecap and studied the shape of the land. During the IGY, British geologist Vivian Fuchs headed the first land crossing of the continent. The Commonwealth of Nations organized the expedition, which covered 2,158 miles (3,473 kilometres). Fuchs left on Nov. 24, 1957, from the shore of the Weddell Sea, with dogs and snow tractors. A team led by New Zealand explorer Sir Edmund Hillary placed food and supplies along the second part of the trail. Hillary met Fuchs at the South Pole in January 1958. Fuchs reached McMurdo Sound in the Ross Sea on March 2, 1958.
Seven of the 12 countries that built Antarctic bases for the IGY claim parts of Antarctica. The parts are shaped like pie slices, with the South Pole at the center. The Australian government claims two slices that face Australia. France claims a strip that extends inward from the Adelie Coast. Other claims come from Argentina, Chile, Britain, New Zealand, and Norway. The five remaining countries, including the United States, have never claimed land in Antarctica and do not recognise Antarctic claims. However, they reserve the right to make such claims. In 1959, officials of the 12 countries signed the Antarctic Treaty. The treaty, which took effect in 1961, is an agreement that allows people to use Antarctica only for peaceful purposes, such as exploration and scientific research. Scientists must share any knowledge that results from their studies. The treaty forbids military forces to enter Antarctica, except those assisting scientific expeditions. It also outlaws the use of nuclear weapons and the disposal of radioactive wastes in Antarctica. Since the Antarctic Treaty took effect, several additional countries have set up scientific programs in Antarctica and have joined the treaty. Members have also added laws to protect Antarctic plants and animals. The treaty delays the settlement of Antarctic claims and forbids countries to change the size of their claims. Member countries may inspect the bases of other countries for signs of treaty violations. Antarctica today has more than 30 year-round scientific stations on the continent and nearby islands. The National Science Foundation maintains the three U.S. stations: (1) Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station, (2) McMurdo Station on Ross Island, and (3) Palmer Station on Anvers Island near the Antarctic Peninsula. Other countries that maintain research stations include Argentina, Australia, Chile, Germany, Italy, Japan, New Zealand, Russia, and the United Kingdom. McMurdo Station has Antarctica's largest community. About 1,000 scientists, pilots, and other specialists live there each summer. Fewer than 200 people stay for winter. A water plant collects and desalts seawater from McMurdo Sound. Powerful ships called icebreakers plow through the ice and arrive with people and supplies. The station also has runways and a helicopter pad.
Geologists collect rock samples from the ice-free dry valleys of the Transantarctic Mountains. On the coasts and at sea, researchers observe animal behavior. Winter restricts scientists to such activities as recording weather data and studying earthquakes and solar radiation. Significant research deals with ozone, a form of oxygen. Ozone is most concentrated in a layer that ranges in altitude from about 9 to 18 miles (15 to 30 kilometers). This layer protects all living things from certain harmful rays of the sun. In the mid-1980's, scientists discovered that the ozone layer above Antarctica is becoming less concentrated. Evidence pointed to manufactured compounds called fluorocarbons as a major cause of this "ozone hole." Many scientists believe that research in Antarctica can answer important questions about the past, present, and future of the earth. Several countries agree that the Antarctic Treaty serves as a model for peaceful international relations and cooperation.
About 5,400,000 sq. mi. (14,000,000 sq. km).
Greatest distance
Antarctic Peninsula to Wilhelm II Coast, about 3,450 mi. (5,550 km).
Coastline - about 19,800 mi. (31,900 km).
Highest - Vinson Massif, 16,864 ft. (5,140 m) above sea level.
Lowest - sea level.
Physical Features
Chief mountain ranges - Antarctic Peninsula, Ellsworth, Prince Charles, Transantarctic, Whitmore.
Chief glaciers
Beardmore, Lambert, Rennick, Support Force.
Chief ice shelves
Amery, Filchner, Larsen, Ronne, Ross.

Antigua and Barbuda is an island country in the Caribbean Sea. It consists of three islands - Antigua, Barbuda, and Redonda. The islands lie about 430 miles (692 kilometres) north of Venezuela.
Antigua and Barbuda has a total land area of 171 square miles (442 square kilometres) and a population of about 69,000. The island of Antigua covers 108 square miles (280 square kilometres); Barbuda, 62 square miles (161 square kilometres); and Redonda, only 1/2 square mile (1.3 square kilometres). About 98 percent of the people live on Antigua and 2 percent on Barbuda. Redonda is uninhabited. St. John's (pop. 36,000), on the northwest coast of Antigua, is the country's capital and largest city. The East Caribbean dollar is the country's basic unit of currency.
Antigua and Barbuda is a constitutional monarchy and a member of the Commonwealth of Nations. A prime minister heads the government. The prime minister and a Cabinet conduct government operations. A 17-member Parliament - composed of a House of Representatives and Senate - makes the laws. The people elect the Parliament members. The head of the majority party of the House of Representatives serves as prime minister. The prime minister appoints the Cabinet members.
The vast majority of the people of Antigua and Barbuda are descendants of Africans. About half of the people live in St. John's, and most of the rest live in rural areas. Most of the people live in one-story houses made of concrete blocks or wood. They wear clothing similar to that worn in the United States and other Western nations. Their main foods include beans, fish, lobsters, and sweet potatoes.
Almost all the people of Antigua and Barbuda speak English, the nation's official language. Most of the people are Protestants. Anglicans make up the largest Protestant group. Antigua and Barbuda has well-developed primary and secondary educational systems.
The islands of Antigua and Barbuda are mostly flat. They were formed from volcanoes that were worn down by wind and rain. The islands have beautiful beaches covered with white sand. Antigua's coast has numerous bays and inlets. Redonda is rocky and has little plant life. The average temperature of the islands is 80 °F (27 °C). The islands receive about 45 inches (114 centimetres) of rain annually. However, long periods of drought strike the area from time to time.
Tourism ranks as the major economic activity of Antigua and Barbuda. The country's beaches, resorts, and warm sunny climate attract tourists from many lands. The tourist industry employs most of Antigua and Barbuda's people. Sugar is also important to the country's economy. Farmers raise sugar cane and processors refine it into sugar. Cotton is another important product. The country's crop production is often harmed by droughts. As a result, the government encourages the development of small industries to strengthen the economy. The country's industries make clothing, paint, and such appliances as refrigerators and stoves.
Carib Indians were the first inhabitants of Antigua and Barbuda. In 1493, Christopher Columbus became the first European to reach Antigua. British settlers established a colony on Antigua in 1632. The colony, which later included Barbuda and Redonda, was called Antigua. The British brought African slaves to the islands to work on sugar cane plantations. The slaves were freed in 1834, the year after Britain abolished slavery throughout its empire. Most of the British people eventually left, but Britain retained control of the colony.
In 1967, the colony of Antigua became part of the West Indies Associated States and gained control of its internal affairs. It became the independent nation of Antigua and Barbuda on Nov. 1, 1981.
In 1989, Hurricane Hugo struck Antigua and Barbuda. The hurricane caused two deaths and $80 million in property damage. Another powerful hurricane, Hurricane Luis, hit the islands in 1995. It resulted in two deaths and at least $300 million in property damage.
National Anthem
Fair Antigua, We Salute Thee

Arab League is an organisation of 21 Middle Eastern and African nations and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). The PLO is an organisation of Palestinian Arabs (see PALESTINE LIBERATION ORGANIZATION). The Arab League's purpose, as stated in the Pact of the League of Arab States, is to promote closer political, economic, cultural, and social relations among the members.
A council composed of representatives of the member states works to settle disputes peacefully. It can also decide by unanimous vote how to repel aggression against a member. League activities are carried out by five major committees: (1) political, (2) economic, (3) social and cultural, (4) legal, and (5) Palestinian affairs.
The league was created in 1945, with seven Arab countries - Iraq, Saudi Arabia, the Lebanese Republic, Yemen (Sana), Transjordan (now Jordan), Egypt, and Syria. Since then, 16 other members have joined - Libya (1953), Sudan (1956), Morocco (1958), Tunisia (1958), Kuwait (1961), Algeria (1962), Yemen (Aden, 1968), Bahrain (1971), Oman (1971), Qatar (1971), United Arab Emirates (1971), Mauritania (1973), Somalia (1974), the PLO (1976), Djibouti (1977), and Comoros (1993). In 1990, Yemen (Aden) and Yemen (Sana) united as Yemen.
Generally, the league has not lived up to the aspirations of its founders. Mutual suspicions and rivalries among the members have made its political and defense agreements largely ineffective. The league has achieved some success in coordinating Arab opposition to Israel and in expressing the rights of the Palestinians. But its greatest accomplishments have probably occurred in the social, cultural, and communications fields. The formation in 1985 of Arabsat, an Arab communications satellite system, is an example of the league's influence in fostering cooperation among Arab countries.
The league has often reflected rather than settled disputes among its members. In 1979, Egypt reversed its policy of hostility toward Israel, and the two nations signed a peace treaty. The league then suspended Egypt's membership and transferred its headquarters from Cairo to Tunis, Tunisia. Egypt was readmitted to the league in 1989. In 1990, most league members voted to move the headquarters back to Cairo.
The league became divided over an invasion of Kuwait by Iraq in August 1990. A majority of its members voted for a proposal to send Arab troops to join foreign forces defending Saudi Arabia from a possible attack by Iraq. But other members opposed the proposal and the presence of foreign troops.

Argentina is the second largest country in South America in area and the third largest in population.
Only Brazil covers a greater area, and only Brazil and Colombia have more people.
Argentina has a long, tapered shape and occupies most of the southern part of South America.
The landscape varies dramatically throughout Argentina.
The rugged Andes Mountains stretch along the country's western border. A bare, windswept plateau called Patagonia extends across the south.
The Pampa, a fertile, grassy plain, lies near the middle of the country. Scrub forests spread across much of the northern part of Argentina.
About a third of all Argentines live in the Buenos Aires metropolitan area.
Large parts of the country are thinly settled. Most Argentines are of Italian or Spanish ancestry.
Indians - the original inhabitants of what is now Argentina - make up only a small part of the country's population.
Nearly all the Argentine people speak Spanish and are Roman Catholics.
Argentina's name comes from the Latin word for silver, argentum.
The first Spanish settlers came to Argentina in search of silver and gold during the 1500's.
The country lacked such riches, but the Pampa's fertile soil later proved to be far more valuable than precious metals.
During the late 1800's, Argentina grew wealthy from the export of meat and grain to Europe.
By the late 1920's, it had become one of the wealthiest nations in the world.
Today, Argentina remains rich in natural resources. However, it no longer ranks among the economic giants.
Manufacturing has become increasingly important to Argentina's economy.
Much of the manufacturing involves processing farm products. Argentina is a leading producer and exporter of beef, corn, and flaxseed. It also produces and exports huge quantities of wheat.
The country lacks the large supplies of coal, iron ore, and most other minerals needed for heavy industry. However, Argentina's petroleum industry produces nearly all the nation's oil needs.
For nearly 300 years, Argentina was a Spanish colony.
Official Name
Republica Argentina (Argentine Republic).
1,073,519 sq. mi. (2,780,400 sq. km).
Greatest distances
north-south, 2,300 mi. (3,700 km);
east-west, 980 mi. (1,577 km).
Coastline - 2,940 mi. (4,731 km).
Highest - Aconcagua, 22,831 ft. (6,959 m) above sea level.
Lowest - Valdes Peninsula, 131 ft. (40 m) below sea level.
Estimated 1996 population - 35,298,000; density, 33 persons per sq. mi. (13 persons per sq. km); distribution, 88 percent urban, 12 percent rural. 1991 census - 32,615,528. Estimated 2001 population - 37,294,000.
Chief Products
Agriculture - beef, corn, cotton, flaxseed, grapes, milk, sorghum, soybeans, sugar cane, sunflower seeds, wheat, wool.
Manufacturing - chemicals, electrical equipment, meat and other food products, motor vehicles, textiles.
Mining - petroleum, natural gas.
National Anthem
Argentine National Anthem
Capital city
Buenos Aires
6918 miles from London
GMT -3 hours
International aircraft prefix
International dialling code
00 54
Austral (ARA)
Nuevo Peso (ARS)
Spanish, English, Italian, German and French
National holidays
25 May - Revolution Day
Embassy details
British Embassy
Dr Luis Agote 2412
Buenos Aires
Telephone (00 54) (11) 457622 (15 53 31 71 29 emergencies outside office hours)
Opening hours 0845 to 1730 Monday to Thursday, 0845 to 1400 Friday (local time)
National flag
3 horizontal bands of light blue, white and light blue; with a yellow sun with a human face inside the white band

Armenia is a country in southwestern Asia.
It is a rugged, mountainous land that lies in the Caucasus Mountain region.
Present-day Armenia and what is now eastern Turkey make up historic Armenia, the original homeland of the Armenian people.
This land was conquered many times in its long history.
By 1915, the Turks had driven most Armenians out of western Armenia, which became eastern Turkey.
In 1920, Russian Communists took control of eastern Armenia. This area became part of the Transcaucasian Republic of the Soviet Union in 1922.
In 1936, it became a separate Soviet republic called the Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic. Armenia remained under Soviet control until 1991, when the people voted to become an independent nation.
Only about half of the world's approximately 6 million Armenians live in Armenia.
The strong national identity of Armenians worldwide helped keep the Armenian culture alive during the years of Soviet control.
Official Name
Haikakan Hanrapetoutioun (Republic of Armenia).
11,506 sq. mi. (29,800 sq. km).
Greatest distances
north-south, 170 mi. (275 km);
east-west, 130 mi. (210 km).
Highest - Mount Aragats, 13,419 ft. (4,090 m) above sea level.
Lowest - Aras River at the southeastern border, 1,475 ft. (450 m) above sea level.
Estimated 1996 population - 3,816,000; density, 332 persons per sq. mi. (128 per sq. km); distribution, 68 percent urban, 32 percent rural. 1989 census - 3,287,677. Estimated 2001 population - 4,275,000.
Chief Products
Agriculture - apricots, barley, cattle, peaches, quinces, sheep, walnuts, wheat, wine grapes.
Manufacturing - chemicals, electronic products, machinery, processed food, synthetic rubber, textiles.
Mining - copper, gold, lead, zinc.
National Anthem
Our Fatherland
Capital city
2250 miles from London
GMT +4 hours
International aircraft prefix
International dialling code
00 374
Dram (AMD)
Armenian and Russian
National holidays
Referendum Day, 21 September
Embassy details
British Embassy
28 Charents Street
Telephone (00 374) (1) 151841/2
Opening hours 0900 to 1300/1400 to 1700 (local time)
National flag
3 equal horizontal bands of red, blue and orange

Aruba is an island in the West Indies that belongs to the Netherlands. Aruba covers 75 square miles (193 square kilometres) and has a population of about 59,000. Oranjestad is the capital and largest city.
Aruba is a hilly, rocky island that supports little agriculture. But it has coral reefs, white sand beaches, and a warm, dry climate that attract many tourists. Aruba's population includes American Indians and people of mixed ancestry. Most of the people work in government jobs, in the tourist business, or in a refining industry that processes crude oil imported from nearby Venezuela.
American Indians were the first inhabitants of Aruba. The Netherlands gained control of the island in 1634. It made Aruba part of its island colony called the Netherlands Antilles. In the mid-1970's, some Arubans began seeking independence from both the Netherlands and the other islands of the Netherlands Antilles. An agreement between Aruba and the Netherlands resulted in Aruba's separation from the Netherlands Antilles in 1986. Aruba has self-government, but the Netherlands is responsible for its defense and foreign affairs.

Australia is the only country that is also a continent.
In area, Australia ranks as the sixth largest country and smallest continent.
Australia is located between the South Pacific Ocean and the Indian Ocean.
The part of the Indian Ocean that is south of Australia is called the Southern Ocean in the country.
Australia is about 7,000 miles (11,000 kilometres) southwest of North America and about 2,000 miles (3,200 kilometres) southeast of mainland Asia.
Australia is often referred to as being "down under" because it lies entirely within the Southern Hemisphere.
The name Australia comes from the Latin word australis, which means southern.
The official name of the country is the Commonwealth of Australia.
The major rivers include the Murray and the Darling.
Australia is a dry, thinly populated land. Only a few areas along or near the coasts receive enough rainfall to support a large population.
The southeastern coastal region has the most people by far. Australia's two largest cities - Sydney and Melbourne - lie in this region. Canberra lies only a short distance inland.
The huge interior of Australia is mostly desert or dry grassland and has few settlements. The country as a whole averages only six persons per square mile (two persons per square kilometre).
Australia is famous for its vast open spaces, bright sunshine, enormous numbers of sheep and cattle, and unusual wildlife. Kangaroos, koalas, platypuses, and wombats are only a few of the many unusual animals that live in Australia.
The country was once a group of British colonies, and most of the Australian people are of British ancestry.
When people moved to Australia from Britain, they took many British customs with them. For example, Australians drive on the left side of the road, as do British drivers. Tea is the favourite hot drink in Australia, as it is in Britain.
English, the official language of Australia, includes many British terms. But Australians have developed a way of life all their own.
Australia has a warm, sunny climate. The people can therefore spend much of their free time out of doors. Australians love outdoor sports and outdoor living in general.
Australia is one of the world's developed countries. It has busy cities, modern factories, and highly productive farms and mines.
Australia is the world's leading producer and exporter of wool and bauxite (the ore from which aluminum is made). It also produces and exports large amounts of other minerals and farm goods.
The income from these exports has made it possible for most of the people of Australia to have a high standard of living.
In the past, Britain was Australia's most important trading partner. Today, Australia trades most with Japan and the United States.
The first Australians were a dark-skinned people known today as Aborigines. The Aborigines had lived in Australia for at least 40,000 years before the first white settlers arrived.
Britain settled Australia as a prison colony in 1788. Since then, the number of whites has steadily increased and the total number of Aborigines has declined. Today, the vast majority of Australians are white.
Official name
Commonwealth of Australia.

National Anthems
"Advance Australia Fair"(national);
"God Save the Queen" (royal).
Largest cities (1991 census)
Sydney (3,538,970);
Melbourne (3,022,157);
Brisbane (1,334,746);
Perth (1,143,265);
Adelaide (1,023,617).
2,978,147 sq. mi. (7,713,364 sq. km), including 26,000 sq. mi. (67,800 sq. km) for Tasmania.
Greatest distances (mainland)
east-west 2,475 mi. (3,983 km);
north-south 1,950 mi. (3,138 km).
Coastline 17,366 mi. (27,948 km), including 779 mi. (1,254 km) for Tasmania and 510 mi. (821 km) for offshore islands.
Highest - Mount Kosciusko, 7,310 ft. (2,228 m) above sea level.
Lowest - Lake Eyre, 52 ft. (16 m) below sea level.
The northern third of Australia lies in the tropics and so is warm or hot the year around. The rest of the country lies south of the tropics and has warm summers and mild or cool winters.
About a third of the country is desert. Australia lies south of the equator, and so its seasons are opposite those in the Northern Hemisphere.
Form of government
Constitutional monarchy - in practice, a parliamentary democracy.
Head of state
Queen of the United Kingdom, who is also queen of Australia. In practice, governor general performs functions in queen's absence.
Head of government
Prime minister, the leader of the party or coalition of parties holding a majority in the House of Representatives.
Senate - 76 members;
House of Representatives - 148 members.
Estimated 1996 population - 18,058,000. 1991 census - 16,850,540. Estimated 2001 population - 19,268,000. Population density: 6 persons per sq. mi. (2 per sq. km) Distribution: 85 percent urban, 15 percent rural. Major ethnic/national groups: About 96 percent of European descent, chiefly British and Irish, but also Italian, Greek, German, and Dutch. About 3 percent Asian. About 1 percent Aborigine (native Australian peoples).
About 25 percent Anglican, 25 percent Roman Catholic, and 10 percent Uniting Church, which consists of Methodist, Congregationalist, and some Presbyterian churches.
Chief products
Agriculture - apples, barley, beef cattle, chickens and eggs, grapes, milk, oats, oranges, potatoes, rice, sheep and lambs, sugar cane, wheat, wool.
Fishing - lobsters, oysters, shrimp.
Forestry - eucalyptus and pine timber, wood pulp.
Manufacturing - automobiles and other transportation equipment; chemicals; household appliances; iron, steel, and other metals; paper; processed foods; textiles, clothing, and shoes.
Mining - bauxite, coal, copper, diamonds, gold, iron ore, lead, manganese, natural gas, nickel, opals, petroleum, silver, tin, titanium, tungsten, uranium, zinc, zircon.
Capital city
10554 miles from London
GMT +10 hours
International aircraft prefix
International dialling code
00 61
Australian Dollar (AUD)
National holidays
26 January - Australia Day
Embassy details
British High Commission
Commonwealth Avenue
ACT 2606
Telephone (00 61) (02) 6270 6666
Opening hours 0845 to 1700 Monday to Friday (local time)
National flag
Blue with the UK flag inset in the upper quarter and a large seven-pointed star in the lower quarter. A small 5-pointed star and 4 larger 7-pointed stars in white fill the remaining half

Austria is a small country in central Europe famous for its beautiful mountain scenery.
The towering Alps and their foothills stretch across the western, southern, and central parts of the country. In many areas, broad, green valleys separate the mountains.
Austria has many lovely, mirrorlike lakes. Thick forests cover much of the country's land.
Austria has no coastline. It shares boundaries with the countries of Switzerland and Liechtenstein to the west, Germany and the Czech Republic to the north, Hungary and Slovakia to the east, and Slovenia and Italy to the south.
Most of Austria's people live in cities and towns. About a fifth of the people live in Vienna.
Vienna is the largest city of Austria. It lies on the Danube River in the northeastern part of the country.
Austrians enjoy good food, outdoor sports, and the arts. They take great pride in the fact that their country has long been a leading cultural centre of Europe. The cultural institutions and scenic beauty of Austria attract millions of tourists each year.
Austria was once one of the most powerful countries in Europe. The royal Habsburg (or Hapsburg) family began to gain control of Austria in the late 1200's. In time, the country became the centre of a huge empire that was ruled by the Habsburgs. This empire collapsed after World War I ended in 1918.
Austria then became a republic and went through a long period of economic difficulty and political unrest. In the last half of the 1900's, however, Austria became increasingly industrialised, and the economy of the country grew steadily. The country also achieved political stability.
Official Name
Republik Osterreich (Republic of Austria).
32,376 sq. mi. (83,853 sq. km).
Greatest distances
east-west, 355 mi. (571 km);
north-south, 180 mi. (290 km).
Highest - Grossglockner, 12,457 ft. (3,797 m) above sea level.
Lowest - Neusiedler Lake, 377 ft. (115 m) above sea level.
Estimated 1996 population - 7,884,000; density, 244 persons per sq. mi. (94 persons per sq. km); distribution, 61 percent urban, 39 percent rural. 1991 census - 7,795,786. Estimated 2001 population - 7,994,000.
Chief Products
Agriculture - barley, cattle, corn, grapes, hogs, milk, potatoes, sugar beets, wheat.
Manufacturing - cement, chemical products, electrical equipment, furniture, glass, iron and steel, leather goods, lumber, machines and tools, motor vehicles, optical instruments, paper and pulp, processed foods and beverages, textiles and clothing.
Mining - coal, copper, graphite, iron ore, lead, magnesite, natural gas, petroleum, salt, zinc.
National Anthem
"Land der Berge, Land am Strome" ("Land of Mountains, Land at the River").
Capital city
761 miles from London
GMT +1 hour
International aircraft prefix
International dialling code
00 43
Vehicle nationality plates
National holidays
26 October - National Day
Embassy details
British Embassy
Jauresgasse 10
A-1030 Vienna
Telephone (00 43) (1) 71613-0 (emergencies outside office hours 5694012)
Opening hours 0900 to 1300 and 1400 to 1700 Monday to Friday (local time)
National flag
3 equal horizontal bands of red, white, red

Azerbaijan is a country in the Caucasus Mountain region on the western shore of the Caspian Sea. It is located mostly in southwestern Asia, but part of northern Azerbaijan is located in Europe. An area of Azerbaijan called the Naxcivan Autonomous Republic lies west of the rest of the country, separated from it by Armenian territory.
The country's full name in Azerbaijani, the official language, is Azarbayjan Respublikasy (Azerbaijani Republic). Baku is its capital and largest city. Azerbaijan became independent in 1991, after nearly 70 years as a part of the Soviet Union.
33,436 sq. mi. (86,600 sq. km).
Greatest distances
north-south, 240 mi. (385 km); east-west, 295 mi. (475 km).
Highest - Bazardyuzyu, 14,652 ft. (4,466 m) above sea level. Lowest - Coast of Caspian Sea, 92 ft. (28 m) below sea level.
Estimated 1996 population - 7,507,000; density, 225 persons per sq. mi. (87 per sq. km); distribution, 54 percent urban, 46 percent rural. 1989 census - 7,037,867. Estimated 2001 population - 7,812,000.
Chief products
Agriculture - cotton, fruit, grain, livestock, tea, tobacco, vegetables.
Manufacturing - machine building, petroleum refining, textile production, processing of chemicals.
Mining - aluminum, copper, iron, natural gas, petroleum, salt.
Basic unit - manat.
National Anthem
"Azerbaijan National Anthem".
The flag's three horizontal stripes are light blue, red, and green. In the flag's centre is a white crescent and star.

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This page (internata.html) was last modified on Thursday 01/08/2013