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International Information: B

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BAHAMAS
Bahamas are a chain of about 3,000 coral islands and reefs that make up an independent nation in the West Indies.
They extend from about 50 miles (80 kilometres) off the eastern coast of Florida to the northeastern tip of Cuba, a distance of over 500 miles (800 kilometres). Only about 20 of the islands are inhabited.
About four-fifths of the Bahamian people live on two of the islands - New Providence and Grand Bahama. Nassau, the largest city, lies on New Providence. The beauty and mild climate of the Bahamas have helped make tourism the basis of the economy.
On his voyage to America in 1492, Christopher Columbus landed first at what is now San Salvador Island in the Bahamas. The Bahamas were a British colony from 1717 until 1973, when they gained independence.
Official Name
The Commonwealth of the Bahamas.
Area
5,358 sq. mi. (13,878 sq. km).
Greatest distances
north-south, 450 mi. (724 km);
east-west, 435 mi. (700 km).
Coastline - 1,580 mi. (2,543 km).
Elevation
Highest - 206 ft. (63 m), on Cat Island.
Lowest - sea level.
Population
Estimated 1996 population - 281,000; density, 52 persons per sq. mi. (20 per sq. km); distribution, 67 percent urban, 33 percent rural. 1990 census - 255,095. Estimated 2001 population - 298,000.
Chief Products
Agriculture - bananas, citrus fruits, cucumbers, pineapples, tomatoes.
Manufacturing - cement, food products, petroleum products, rum.
National Anthem
"March On, Bahamaland."
Capital city
Nassau
4346 miles from London
GMT -5 hours
International aircraft prefix
C6
International dialling code
00 1 242
Currency
Bahamian Dollar (BSD)
Language
English and Creole
National holidays
10 July - National Day
Embassy details
British High Commission
3rd Floor Ansbacher House
East Street
P O Box N7516
Nassau
Telephone (00 1) (242) 3257471
Opening hours 0830 to 1300/1400 to 1730 (local time)
National flag
3 horizontal bands in equal size of aquamarine, gold, aquamarine, with a black triangle on the hoist side


BAHRAIN
Bahrain is an island country in the Persian Gulf in southwest Asia.
Barren desert covers most of the more than 30 islands that make up this Arab land. The main island is also called Bahrain.
Bahrain has been a major centre of trade and communications in the Persian Gulf area for many centuries. But the country remained underdeveloped until the discovery of petroleum on the island of Bahrain in 1932. Today, the nation has one of the highest standards of living in the gulf area.
Bahrain was a British protectorate from 1861 to 1971, when it gained independence. Manama is the largest city and chief commercial centre.
Official Name
The State of Bahrain.
Form of Government
Emirate.
Head of state
Emir.
Area
262 sq. mi. (678 sq. km).
Greatest distances
north-south, 50 mi. (80 km);
east-west, 26 mi. (42 km).
Coastline - 78 mi. (126 km).
Elevation
Highest - Jabal ad Dukhan, 443 ft. (135 m) above sea level.
Lowest - sea level.
Population
Estimated 1996 population - 592,000; density, 2,260 persons per sq. mi. (873 per sq. km); distribution, 84 percent urban, 16 percent rural. 1991 census - 508,037. Estimated 2001 population - 668,000.
Chief Products
Agriculture - dates, tomatoes.
Fishing - fish and shrimp.
Manufacturing - aluminium and aluminium products, ammonia, iron, liquid natural gas, methanol, refined petroleum products.
Mining - natural gas, petroleum.
National Anthem
"Our Bahrain."
Capital city
Manama
3164 miles from London
GMT +3 hours
International aircraft prefix
A9C
International dialling code
00 973
Currency
Bahrain Dinar (BHD)
Language
Arabic, English, Farsi and Urdu
National holidays
16 December - National Day
Embassy details
British Embassy
P O Box 114
21 Government Avenue
Manama 306
Telephone (00 973) 534404 (emergencies outside office hours 9600274)
Opening hours 0730 to 1430 Saturday to Wednesday. Closed Thursday/Friday (local time)
email britemb@batelco.com.bh
National flag
Red with an eight white pointed serrated band on the side


BANGLADESH
Bangladesh is a South Asian nation that once formed part of Pakistan.
Bangladesh gained independence in 1971 after a nine-month civil war between East Pakistan and West Pakistan. From 1947 to 1971, the region that is now Bangladesh was East Pakistan. More than half the people of Pakistan lived there.
The northeast part of India borders Bangladesh on three sides. Bangladesh shares many cultural and geographical features with nearby West Bengal, which is a state of India. Bangladesh and West Bengal form a region that is known as Bengal.
Bangladesh is sometimes called East Bengal. The name Bangladesh means Bengal nation.
Bangladesh is one of the world's most densely populated countries.
The nation's rapid population growth has led to serious overcrowding. The people of Bangladesh are called Bangladeshis. Dhaka, formerly spelled Dacca, is the largest city of Bangladesh.
Widespread poverty has long characterised the region. Most Bangladeshis are poor farmers who struggle to make a living on small plots of land. Many labourers in the cities work for about a dollar a day. Most of Bangladesh's adults cannot read or write. About 85 percent of the country's people are Muslims, and most of the rest are Hindus.
Plant life thrives in the warm, humid climate of Bangladesh.
Most of the country's land consists of a flat, fertile flood plain, and is crisscrossed by innumerable rivers and streams. The rivers deposit fertile soil along their banks during periodic floods. However, many of the floods also cause widespread destruction in Bangladesh's rural villages.
The region that now makes up Bangladesh has been governed by Hindu, Muslim, and Buddhist rulers at various times in its history. The British East India company became the leading power in the area in 1757. The region became part of the British Empire when Britain took control of India in 1858.
Bloody conflicts that occurred between Hindus and Muslims led to the division of India into two nations in 1947, when India gained independence. Pakistan - consisting of East Pakistan and West Pakistan - was created out of the northeastern and northwestern parts of India. The majority of the people living in both areas were Muslims.
Numerous differences, both cultural and economic, divided the peoples of East Pakistan and West Pakistan. In 1971, civil war led to the establishment of East Pakistan as an independent country - Bangladesh.
Official Name
People's Republic of Bangladesh.
Head of Government
President.
Area
55,598 sq. mi. (143,998 sq. km).
Greatest distances
north-south, 464 mi. (747 km);
east-west, 288 mi. (463 km).
Coastline - 357 mi. (575 km).
Elevation
Highest - Mount Keokradong, 4,034 ft. (1,230 m) above sea level.
Lowest - sea level.
Population
Estimated 1996 population - 117,944,000; density, 2,121 persons per sq. mi. (819 per sq. km); distribution, 80 percent rural, 20 percent urban. 1991 census - 107,992,940. Estimated 2001 population - 132,250,000.
Chief Products
Agriculture - jute, rice, sugar cane, tea, tobacco, wheat.
Manufacturing - jute products, leather, paper and paper products, textiles.
Mining - natural gas.
National Anthem
"Amar Sonar Bangla" ("My Golden Bengal").
Capital city
Dakha
4974 miles from London
GMT +6 hours
International aircraft prefix
S2
International dialling code
00 880
Currency
Taka (BDT)
Language
Bangla and English
National holidays
Shaheed Day (Martyrs Day), February 21;
Independence Day, March 26;
Victory Day, December 16.
Embassy details
British High Commission
United Nations Road
Baridhara
P O Box 6079
Dhaka 12
Telephone (00 880) (2) 8822705 (emergencies outside office hours 011 858102)
Opening hours 0730 to 1430 Sunday to Thursday (local time)
email consular@dhaka.mail.fco.gov.uk
National flag
Green with a big red disk a little off-centre


BARBADOS
Barbados is an island country in the West Indies.
The easternmost West Indian island, Barbados lies about 250 miles (402 kilometres) northeast of Venezuela. It is one of the most densely populated countries in the world.
The growing of sugar cane has been an important industry in Barbados for more than 300 years, and manufacturing and processing gained importance during the 1900's.
Barbados's pleasant climate and sandy beaches have made it a popular vacation resort, and tourism is also a major industry.
Barbados was a British colony from the 1620's until it became independent in 1966. Bridgetown is the largest city. The city is the business and tourist center of Barbados. It is also the country's chief port.
Area
166 sq. mi. (430 sq. km).
Greatest distances
north-south, 21 mi. (34 km);
east-west, 14 mi. (23 km).
Coastline - 56 mi. (90 km).
Population
Estimated 1996 population - 262,000; density, 1,578 persons per sq. mi. (609 per sq. km); distribution, 52 per cent rural, 48 per cent urban. 1990 census - 257,082. Estimated 2001 population - 269,000.
Chief Products
Agriculture - carrots, corn, milk, pork, sugar cane, sweet potatoes, yams.
Fishing - flyingfish.
Manufacturing and processing - chemicals, clothing, electronic products, sugar.
Capital city
Bridgetown
4215 miles from London
GMT -4 hours
International aircraft prefix
8P
International dialling code
00 1 246
Currency
Barbados Dollar (BBD)
Language
English
National holidays
30 November - Independence Day
Embassy details
British High Commission
Lower Collymore Rock
P O Box 676
Bridgetown
Telephone (00 1) (246) 4307800
Opening hours 0800 to 1230/1300 to 1600 Monday to Thursday, 0800 to 1300 Friday (local time)
email britishhc@sunbeach.net
National Anthem
"In Plenty and In Time of Need".
National flag
3 vertical bands of blue, gold, blue with the head of a black trident in the middle of the gold band


BELARUS
Belarus, also spelled Byelarus, is a country in eastern Europe. Minsk is its largest city.
The Belarusians trace their history to Kievan Rus, a state founded by East Slavs in the 800's.
Belarus became part of Lithuania in the 1300's. It passed to Poland in the 1500's and to Russia in the late 1700's.
The Russians established a Communist government there in 1919. Belarus became a republic of the Soviet Union in 1922. It remained a Soviet republic until 1991, when it declared its independence.
Official name
Respublika Byelarus (Republic of Belarus).
Area
80,155 sq. mi. (207,600 sq. km).
Greatest distances
north-south, 340 mi. (545 km);
east-west, 385 mi. (620 km).
Elevation
Highest - Dzerzhinskaya Gora, 1,135 ft. (346 m) above sea level.
Lowest - Neman (also spelled Nyoman) River at northwestern border, 295 ft. (90 m) above sea level.
Population
Estimated 1996 population - 10,320,000; density, 129 persons per sq. mi. (50 per sq. km); distribution, 67 percent urban, 33 percent rural. 1989 census - 10,199,709. Estimated 2001 population - 10,372,000.
Chief products
Agriculture - barley, cattle, flax, hogs, potatoes, rye, sugar beets.
Manufacturing - bicycles, clocks, computers, engineering equipment, furniture, metal-cutting tools, motorcycles, plywood and paper, potassium fertiliser, refrigerators, television sets, textiles, trucks and tractors.
Capital city
Minsk
1162 miles from London
GMT +2 hours
International aircraft prefix
EW
International dialling code
00 375
Currency
Belarussian Rouble (BYR)
Language
Byelorussian and Russian
National holidays
3 July - Independence Day
Embassy details
British Embassy
37 Karl Marx Street
220030 Minsk
Belarus
Telephone (00 375) (172) 105920/1
Opening hours 0800 to 1200/1300 to 1330 in summer, 0900 to 1300/1400 to 1730 in winter (local time)
email mexuk@ecnet.co.uk
National Anthem
"My Belarusy".
National flag
Red horizontal band at the top with a green horizontal band, half the band of the red; and a white vertical stripe with the Belarusian national emblem in red


BELGIUM
Belgium is a small country at the crossroads of northwestern Europe.
The country borders three important trading nations - France, the Netherlands, and Germany.
A narrow body of water called the English Channel separates Belgium from the United Kingdom.
Belgium's central location in Europe has brought it prosperity through trade with its neighbours.
Historically, the country's location has also made it a battleground for soldiers of other nations, particularly during World War I (1914-1918) and World War II (1939-1945).
During most of its history, Belgium was a collection of cities and regions. Ancient Rome, Spain, Austria, France, and the Netherlands ruled it at different times. In 1830, Belgium won its independence from the Netherlands and became united as a state.
Belgium has two main ethnic groups, a Dutch-speaking people called Flemings, who live in the north, and a French-speaking people called Walloons, who live in the south. Both French-speaking and Dutch-speaking live in Brussels, Belgium's capital. A group of German-speaking people live in eastern Belgium.
Belgium is an international centre of economic and political activity. A number of international organisations have headquarters in Brussels, including the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Many international companies have branch offices or factories in Belgium.
Official name
Kingdom of Belgium.
Head of state
King.
Head of government
Prime minister.
Area
11,783 sq. mi. (30,519 sq. km).
Greatest distances
east-west, 170 mi. (274 km);
north-south, 140 mi. (225 km).
Coastline - 39 mi. (63 km).
Elevation
Highest - Botrange Mountain, 2,277 ft. (694 m) above sea level.
Lowest - sea level.
Population
Estimated 1996 population - 10,042,000; density, 852 persons per sq. mi. (329 per sq. km); distribution, 97 percent urban, 3 percent rural. 1991 census - 9,978,681. Estimated 2001 population - 10,087,000.
Chief products
Agriculture - barley, cattle, milk, potatoes, sugar beets, wheat.
Manufacturing - cement, chemicals and chemical products, electronic products, engineering products, glass, metal products, paper, processed foods, steel, textiles.
Capital city
Brussels
196 miles from London
GMT +1 hour
International aircraft prefix
OO
International dialling code
00 32
Currency
Euro
Language
Dutch, French and German
(It is a legal obligation on citizens to be bi-lingual)
Vehicle nationality plates
B
National holidays
21 July - National Day
Embassy details
British Embassy
Rue d'Arlon
85 Aarlenstraat
1040 Brussels
Telephone (00 32) (2) 287 6211
Opening hours 0930 to 1730 Monday to Friday (local time)
email info@british-embassy.be
National Anthem
"Belgium National Anthem".
National flag
3 vertical bands of black, yellow and red


BELIZE
Belize is a small country in Central America. It lies on the southeast coast of the Yucatan Peninsula.
Belize is bordered by Mexico on the north, the Caribbean Sea on the east, and Guatemala on the south and west. More than half of Belize's people live along the Caribbean coast. Belize City, on the coast, is the country's only city. Belmopan, which was created in 1970, is inland.
Belize is Central America's most thinly populated country. It is also the only Central American country where English is the official language and people of African descent make up the largest part of the population.
Belize became an independent nation in 1981. It had been a British colony since 1862. From its colonial days until 1973, Belize was called British Honduras.
Area
8,867 sq. mi. (22,965 sq. km).
Greatest distances
north-south, 180 mi. (290 km);
east-west, 85 mi. (137 km).
Coastline - 220 mi. (354 km).
Elevation
Highest - Victoria Peak, 3,680 ft. (1,122 m) above sea level.
Lowest - sea level along the coast.
Population
Estimated 1996 population - 213,000; density, 24 persons per sq. mi. (9 per sq. km); distribution, 52 percent rural, 48 percent urban. 1991 census - 189,392. Estimated 2001 population - 232,000.
Chief Products
Agriculture - bananas, corn, grapefruit, oranges, sugar cane.
Forestry - pines, tropical hardwoods.
Fishing - conches, lobsters, shrimp.
Manufacturing and processing - cement, clothing, sugar.
National Anthem
"Land of the Free."
Capital city
Belmopan
5300 miles from London
GMT -6 hours
International aircraft prefix
V3
International dialling code
00 501
Currency
Belizean Dollar (BZD)
Language
English, Spanish, Mayan, Garifuna and Creole
National holidays
21 September - Independence Day
Embassy details
British High Commission
P O Box 91
Belmopan
Telephone (00 501) (8) 22146/7
email brithicom@btl.net
National Anthem
"Land of the Free".
National flag
Blue with narrow red stripes at the top and bottom with a large white disk, with a coat of arms, in the centre



BENIN
Benin is a country on the west coast of Africa. Long and narrow, Benin extends 415 miles (668 kilometres) inland from the Gulf of Guinea. Most of the people of Benin are farmers.
Benin was formerly a territory in French West Africa. It became independent in 1960. The country's name in French, the official language, is Republique du Benin. The nation was called Dahomey until 1975. Porto-Novo is the capital, but most of the government activity takes place in Cotonou. Cotonou is the largest city, main port, and commercial centre of the country.
Area
43,484 sq. mi. (112,622 sq. km).
Greatest distances
north-south, 415 mi. (668 km); east-west, 202 mi. (325 km).
Coastline - 77 mi. (124 km).
Elevation
Highest - Atacora Mountains, about 2,000 ft. (610 m) above sea level. Lowest - sea level.
Population
Estimated 1996 population - 5,560,000; density, 128 persons per sq. mi. (49 per sq. km); distribution, 58 percent rural, 42 percent urban. 1992 census - 4,855,349. Estimated 2001 population - 6,451,000.
Chief Products
Agriculture - beans, cacao, cassava, coffee, corn, cotton, palm oil and kernels, peanuts, sorghum, yams.
National Anthem
"L'Aube Nouvelle" ("The New Dawn").
Money
Basic unit - franc.
Flag
A green vertical stripe is on the left side of the flag. A yellow stripe appears above a red one at the right.


BERMUDA
Bermuda, a British dependency, is a group of coral islands and islets in the Atlantic Ocean. It is a popular resort centre.
Bermuda consists of more than 300 islands and tiny islets, only 20 of which are inhabited. The islands form the most northerly group of coral islands in the world. They lie midway between Nova Scotia and the West Indies, about 670 miles (1,080 kilometres) from New York City. The largest islands are Bermuda, St. George's, St. David's, and Somerset. These islands and several smaller islands are linked by bridges. Bermuda's total area is about 21 square miles (53 square kilometres). The four largest islands extend in a chain that is about 22 miles (35 kilometres) long. The island of Bermuda occupies about two-thirds of the total area. Hamilton, the capital, is on this island.
Bermuda has hills and ridges that rise as high as 260 feet (80 metres) above sea level. The hills add to the beauty of Bermuda, which is noted for winding roads, palm trees, colorful flowers, and shining beaches.
Bermuda has few sources of fresh water. Rain water is caught on the roofs of buildings and stored in tanks under the buildings. Roofs are kept clean and whitewashed to help keep the water supply pure.
Bermuda's annual rainfall averages 58 inches (147 centimetres). The average yearly temperature is 70 °F (21 °C). Autumn hurricanes may strike the islands.
Bermuda provides free primary and secondary education. Children aged 5 through 16 are required to attend school. Bermuda's Warwick Academy, founded in 1626, is believed to be the oldest secondary school in the Western Hemisphere. Bermuda College provides higher education.
The 20 inhabited islands have a population of about 63,000, not including about 15,000 British and United States military personnel. Tourism is the major source of income. Bermuda's mild climate and excellent hotels, beaches, and recreational resources attract about 500,000 tourists every year. Bermuda has long been a favourite honeymoon spot. Golf, bicycling, fishing, sailing, and tennis are popular sports. About 300 species of fish can be found in nearby waters. Devil's Hole is a natural fish pond. Other attractions include caves, and old forts and other historic buildings. St. Peter's Church in St. George, on St. George's Island, dates from 1619. Tourists can buy British goods, such as fine china and woolen fabrics, at low prices.
Bermuda attracts businesses from other countries by providing tax exemptions. About 7,000 foreign companies operate in Bermuda. They include many insurance and investment firms. The dependency ranks as one of the world's leading centres of the insurance business. Bermuda has relatively little farmland, and it must import about four-fifths of its food.
Major harbours are located at Hamilton and at St. George. Only small cars are permitted on the islands. They may travel up to 35 kilometres (22 miles) per hour.
Bermuda is a parliamentary democracy. The British Crown appoints the governor of Bermuda. An eight-member council assists the governor. Bermuda's parliament first met in 1620 and is the world's oldest British overseas parliament. It includes an 11-member appointed Senate and a 40-member elected House of Assembly. Senate members serve three-year terms and House of Assembly members, up to five-year terms. From 1797 until the 1950's, Britain kept garrisons in Bermuda for protection. The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation now provides for Bermuda's defence.
The Bermuda Islands were named for Juan de Bermudez, a Spaniard, who discovered them early in the 1500's. The Sea Venture, a ship carrying colonists to Virginia, was destroyed at sea near the islands during a storm on July 28, 1609. For a time, the colony was called Somers Islands after Admiral Sir George Somers, the captain of the Sea Venture. The town of St. George was also named in his honour. The reef on which the ship crashed still bears the name of Sea Venture. Bermudians celebrate Somers Day on July 28. The passengers of the Sea Venture remained for a time, but all except two of the group sailed to Virginia in 1610. These two became Bermuda's first permanent settlers. The others found the Jamestown settlers near starvation. Somers returned to Bermuda for supplies but died a few days after his arrival. His ship left another settler and returned to Virginia.
King James I of England awarded Bermuda to the Virginia Company, about 1610. The company sold its rights in 1613 to a group of English merchants. In 1684, the English Crown took over the administration of the islands. St. George served as the capital until the seat of government was moved to Hamilton in 1815.
English settlers in Bermuda kept Africans as slaves. But the slaves did not work on plantations, as they did in Caribbean countries and in the Southern United States. Instead, they worked as domestic servants and performed various crafts, such as boatbuilding.
During the 1800's, Bermuda carried on a thriving merchant trade with the West Indies and the North American continent. The salvage of ships destroyed by storms in nearby waters also contributed to Bermuda's income. After Gibb's Hill Lighthouse was erected in 1846, fewer shipwrecks occurred. The lighthouse still stands near Port Royal Bay. Blockade-running for the Confederacy became profitable during the Civil War. Some Bermudians made fortunes as privateers. During the Prohibition period in the United States (1920-1933), some Bermudians smuggled alcoholic beverages into U.S. ports on the Atlantic Coast.
Bermuda was the site of a U.S. naval base during World War I and of U.S. air and naval bases during World War II. Today, a U.S. Navy base operates about 2 miles (3 kilometres) south of St. George. It also serves as a commercial airfield called Kindley Field.
Bermuda's economy and government are controlled by the white minority. In 1973, the governor of Bermuda, Sir Richard Sharples, was assassinated. A rebel confessed to the assassination and was convicted. He was hanged in 1977.


BHUTAN
Bhutan is a small, developing independent country in south-central Asia. It lies in the eastern Himalaya between India and Tibet.
Bhutan is a rugged, mountainous country with great extremes in climate. Thick forests grow on the rain-drenched southern slopes of the mountains. It is extremely hot in the low foothill regions and extremely cold in the Great Himalaya. Only in the mid-Himalaya regions is the climate moderate. Almost all Bhutanese are hardy mountaineers who farm and raise stock. They live in isolated valleys, cut off from one another by mountains. Bhutan had little contact with the rest of the world until the late 1950's. Thimphu, a town of about 30,000, is the capital of the country.
Official Language
Dzongkha, a Tibetan dialect.
Form of Government
Monarchy.
Area
18,147 sq. mi. (47,000 sq. km).
Greatest distances
north-south, 110 mi. (177 km); east-west, 200 mi. (322 km).
Elevation
Highest - Kula Kangri, 24,783 ft. (7,554 m) above sea level. Lowest - 150 ft. (46 m) above sea level in the south.
Population
Estimated 1996 population - 1,769,000; density, 97 persons per sq. mi. (38 per sq. km); distribution, 94 percent rural, 6 percent urban. 1969 census - 1,034,774. Estimated 2001 population - 1,989,000.
Chief Products
Agriculture - barley, fruit, rice, vegetables, wheat.
Handicrafts and industries - blankets, leatherwork, pottery, preserved fruit, textiles.
Mining - coal.
Money
Basic unit - ngultrum.
National Anthem
"The Thunder Dragon Kingdom".
Flag
The square flag is divided diagonally into yellow and orange halves. A white dragon in the centre has a jewel in each claw.

BOLIVIA
Bolivia is a country near the centre of South America.
It lacks a seacoast and has great natural barriers to transportation.
In western Bolivia, the majestic, snow-capped Andes Mountains surround a high, dry plateau.
A vast lowland plain spreads over the north and east. Tropical rain forests thrive in the northern part of the plain, and grasslands and swamps sprawl across much of the east. Largely hilly country lies between the Andes Mountains and the lowland plain.
Most Bolivians are of Indian or of mixed Spanish and Indian ancestry. About half the country's workers farm for a living. Most Bolivians are desperately poor, and many adults cannot read and write.
Bolivia has two capitals. Sucre, where the Supreme Court meets, is the official capital. However, most government offices are in La Paz, the actual capital and Bolivia's largest city.
Bolivia is rich in natural resources and is a leading producer of tin. However, frequent wars, revolutions, and a series of unstable governments have hampered the country's economic growth. As a result, Bolivia remains a developing country with one of the lowest standards of living in the Western Hemisphere.
American Indians were the first people to live in what is now Bolivia. During the 1500's, Spain conquered the Indians. The Spanish ruled the region until 1825, when Bolivia won its independence. The new country was named after Simon Bolivar. Bolivar, a Venezuelan general, helped Bolivia and several other South American countries win their freedom from Spain.
Official Name
Republica de Bolivia (Republic of Bolivia).
Area
424,165 sq. mi. (1,098,581 sq. km).
Greatest distances
north-south, 900 mi. (1,448 km);
east-west, 800 mi. (1,287 km).
Elevation
Highest - Nevado Sajama, 21,463 ft. (6,542 m) above sea level.
Lowest - 300 ft. (90 m) above sea level, near Fortaleza.
Population
Estimated 1996 population - 8,256,000; density, 19 persons per sq. mi. (8 per sq. km); distribution, 54 percent urban, 46 percent rural. 1992 census - 6,420,792. Estimated 2001 population - 9,231,000.
Chief Products
Agriculture - cocoa, sugar, potatoes, corn, rice, wheat, coffee, cotton.
Forest products - timber, rubber.
Manufacturing and processing - refined tin, processed foods, textiles.
Mining - tin, natural gas, petroleum, zinc, lead, antimony, tungsten, copper, silver, gold.
Capital city
La Paz
6217 miles from London
GMT -4 hours
International aircraft prefix
CP
International dialling code
00 591
Currency
Boliviano (BOB)
Language
Spanish, Quechua and Aymara
National holidays
6 August - Independence Day
Embassy details
British Embassy
Casilla 694
Av Arce 2732
La Paz
Telephone (00 591) (2) 433424
Opening hours 0830 to 1230/1330 to 1700 Monday to Thursday, 0830 to 1330 Friday (local time)
email ppa@mail.megalink.com
National Anthem
"National Anthem of Bolivia".
National flag
3 horizontal bands of red, yellow and green with the coat of arms centred on the yellow band


BOSNIA - HERZOGOVINA
Bosnia-Herzegovina is a country in southeastern Europe. It is often simply called Bosnia.
Sarajevo is the largest city.
Slavic peoples make up most of Bosnia-Herzegovina's population. The largest groups are the Bosnian Muslims, the Serbs, and the Croats.
In 1918, Bosnia-Herzegovina became part of the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes, later renamed Yugoslavia. In 1946, Yugoslavia became a federal state consisting of six republics, one of which was Bosnia-Herzegovina. From 1945 to 1990, Communists held a monopoly on power in all of Yugoslavia, including Bosnia. In 1990, Bosnia held its first multiparty elections, and non-Communists won control of the legislature.
In March 1992, Bosnia declared its independence from Yugoslavia. Much of Bosnia's Serbian population opposed independence, and war broke out. In December 1995, representatives of the opposing sides in the conflict signed a peace plan.
Area
19,741 sq. mi. (51,129 sq. km).
Greatest distances
north-south, 195 mi. (315 km);
east-west, 195 mi. (315 km).
Elevation
Highest - Mount Maglic, 7,828 ft. (2,386 m) above sea level.
Lowest - sea level along coast.
Population
Estimated 1996 population - 4,476,000; density, 227 persons per sq. mi. (88 per sq. km); distribution, 66 percent rural, 34 percent urban. 1991 census - 4,365,639. Estimated 2001 population - 4,589,000.
Chief products
Agriculture - cattle, cherries, corn, grapes, hogs, peaches, pears, plums, potatoes, sheep, soybeans, tobacco, walnuts, wheat.
Manufacturing - electric appliances, textiles.
Mining - coal, iron ore.
Capital city
Sarajevo
1004 miles from London
GMT +1 hours
International aircraft prefix
T9
International dialling code
00 387
Currency
Bosnian Dinar (BAD)
Language
Croatian, Serbian and Bosnian
Vehicle nationality plates
BIH
National holidays
25 November - National Day
Embassy details
British Embassy
8 Tina Ujevica
Sarajevo
Telephone (00 387) 33444429
Opening hours 0830 to 1300/1400 to 1700 Monday to Friday (local time)
email britemba@bih.net.ba
National Anthem
"Bosnia and Hertzegovina National Anthem".
National flag
Blue vertical band with a yellow triangle abutting the band and the top of the flag; with the remainder being medium blue with seven 5-pointed white stars and 2 half stars top and bottom along the hypotenuse of the triangle



BOTSWANA
Botswana is a country in the centre of southern Africa. Its official name is the Republic of Botswana. Botswana has a democratic form of government. Until the early 1990's, it was one of the few African nations with more than one political party. A number of other nations then began adopting multiparty systems. Botswana is a member of the Commonwealth, an association of former British colonies.
Botswana lies far from the sea and is surrounded by land. It is one of the most thinly populated countries in Africa. Botswana covers 224,607 square miles (581,730 square kilometres), but it has a population of only about 11/2 million. Most of the people live in eastern Botswana. The Kalahari Desert covers much of the rest of Botswana. Gaborone is the capital and largest city.
Official Language
English
.Area
224,607 sq. mi. (581,730 sq. km).
Greatest distances
north-south, 625 mi. (1,006 km); east-west, 590 mi. (950 km).
Elevation
Highest - Otse Mountain, 4,886 feet (1,489 metres) above sea level. Lowest - near junction of Shashe and Limpopo rivers, 1,684 feet (513 metres).
Population
Estimated 1996 population - 1,532,000; density, 7 persons per sq. mi. (2 per sq. km); distribution, 69 percent rural, 31 percent urban. 1991 census - 1,326,796. Estimated 2001 population - 1,759,000.
Chief Products
Agriculture - beef, corn, cottonseed, hides and skins, milk, millet, onions, oranges, peanuts, sorghum, wheat.
Mining - coal, cobalt, copper, diamonds, nickel.
National Anthem
"Blessed Be This Noble Land".
Money
Basic unit - pula.
Flag
Three horizontal bands (blue, black, and blue) are divided by two white bands.

BRAZIL
Brazil is the largest country in South America in both area and population.
It occupies almost half the continent and has more people than all the other South American nations combined. Brazil ranks fifth in both area and population among the countries of the world.
Brazil has a varied landscape. The world's largest tropical rain forest sprawls across much of the north. The mighty Amazon and other enormous rivers wind through this vast green area of towering trees and steamy jungles. Cloud-capped mountains rise north of the forests and border the Atlantic Ocean in the southeast. Dry plains extend across parts of northeastern Brazil. The low plateaus of central and southern Brazil have fertile farmlands and lush grazing areas. Broad white beaches line glistening seashores on the nation's long Atlantic coast.
The forests, rivers, and mountains of Brazil have restricted inland travel, and the country's vast interior remains little developed. About 80 per cent of all Brazilians live within 200 miles (320 kilometres) of the Atlantic coast. Nearly all of Brazil's big cities and towns are located on or near the coast. One of the largest cities in Brazil's interior is Brasilia. The city was built about 600 miles (970 kilometres) from the coast in order to help draw Brazilians inland.
Approximately three-fourths of Brazil's people live in urban areas. About 10 metropolitan areas in the country have populations of more than a million. Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro are the country's two largest cities. Sao Paulo has about 11 million people and is one of the largest cities in the world in terms of population.
This modern, fast-paced city is also Brazil's chief commercial and industrial centre. Rio de Janeiro has about 6 million people and is one of the most heavily populated cities in South America. Rio de Janeiro is a major tourist attraction. The city is known throughout the world for its breathtaking coastline, exciting nightclubs, and colourful festivals.
Brazil's people come from many backgrounds. About 60 per cent of the country's population are of European ancestry - mostly German, Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish. Indians, the original Brazilians, form less than 1 per cent of Brazil's people. Most other Brazilians have mixed ancestry.
Rich natural resources have helped make Brazil a growing economic power. The nation is the world's largest "coffeepot," producing about a fourth of the total coffee crop each year. Brazil ranks among the world's leading countries in the production of a wide variety of agricultural items, including bananas, cacao beans, cattle, corn, cotton, horses, lemons, oranges, pineapples, rice, sheep, soybeans, sugar cane, and tobacco. Huge supplies of nuts, timber, and other products come from its forests, and power plants on its rivers generate a great amount of electricity. Brazil produces large quantities of iron ore, manganese, and many other minerals needed by industry.
Rapid industrial growth during the mid-1900's helped Brazil become one of the world's top manufacturing nations. Brazil has the largest steel plant in Latin America, and the manufacture of metal products is the nation's chief industrial activity. In addition, Brazil ranks among the world's leading countries in the manufacture of automobiles.
In spite of Brazil's productive economy, the great wealth of some Brazilians contrasts sharply with the great poverty of others. A small number of landowners, executives, and government leaders live in luxury. A small but fast-growing group of middle-class Brazilians, including business managers, government workers, and teachers, live comfortably. But most Brazilians are very poor. Many live in rural areas continually troubled by drought and floods. Many others live in crowded city slums.
Brazil shares many traditions with Portugal. It was a Portuguese colony from 1500 to 1822 and is the only Portuguese-speaking nation in Latin America. The early Portuguese colonists also brought Roman Catholicism to Brazil. Today, Brazil has more Catholics than any other nation.
Brazil has been a republic since 1889. It has had periods of dictatorial rule, as well as many years of representative government.
Form of Government
Federal republic; 26 states, 1 federal district.
Head of state
President (4-year term).
Official Name
Republica Federativa do Brasil (Federative Republic of Brazil).
Area
3,286,502 sq. mi. (8,511,999 sq. km).
Greatest distances
north-south, 2,684 mi. (4,319 km);
east-west, 2,689 mi. (4,328 km).
Coastline - 4,600 mi. (7,400 km).
Elevation
Highest - Pico da Neblina, 9,888 ft. (3,014 m) above sea level.
Lowest - sea level.
Population
Estimated 1996 population - 163,577,000; density, 50 persons per sq. mi. (19 per sq. km); distribution, 74 percent urban, 26 percent rural. 1991 census - 146,154,502. Estimated 2001 population - 174,885,000.
Chief Products
Agriculture - bananas, cacao beans, cattle, coffee, corn, oranges, rice, soybeans, sugar cane.
Manufacturing and processing - automobiles, cement, chemicals, electrical equipment, food products, machinery, paper, rubber, steel, textiles, trucks.
Mining - bauxite, beryllium, chrome, diamonds, gold, iron ore, magnesite, manganese, mica, petroleum, quartz crystals, tin, titanium.
Forest products - Brazil nuts, carnauba wax, latex, timber.
Capital city
Brasilia
5438 miles from London
GMT -3 hours
International aircraft prefix
PP/PT
International dialling code
00 55
Currency
Cruzeiro Real (BRR)
Language
Portuguese, Spanish, English and French
National holidays
7 September - Independence Day
Embassy details
British Embassy
SES Quadra 801 Lote 8 Cj K
Av das Nacoes
70408-900
Brasilia - DF
Telephone (00 55) (61) 2052710
Opening hours in winter 0730 to 1630 Monday to Thursday, 0730 to 1300 Friday (local time)
Opening hours in summer 0830 to 1730 Monday to Thursday, 0830 to 1400 Friday (local time)
email britemb@nutecnet.com.br
National Anthem
"Brazil National Anthem".
National flag
Green with a centred yellow diamond bearing a blue globe with 27 white 5-pointed stars. The globe has a white band bearing the motto ORDEM E PROGRESSO (Order and Progress)




BRITISH VIRGIN ISLANDS
The British Virgin Islands are a dependency of the United Kingdom in the West Indies. They lie near the western end of the Lesser Antilles. A channel called the Narrows separates them from the Virgin Islands of the United States. The dependency has a land area of 59 square miles (153 square kilometres) and a population of about 20,000. It consists of more than 60 islands and isles. The largest of these are Anegada, Jost van Dyke, Tortola, and Virgin Gorda islands. Road Town (pop. 6,500), on Tortola, is the capital and only urban area. Tortola attracts many tourists. Major products of the islands include beef cattle, fish, fruits and vegetables, and rum.


BRUNEI
Brunei is a small country in Southeast Asia. It lies on the north coast of the island of Borneo.
The people of Brunei enjoy a high standard of living, mainly because of the country's valuable offshore petroleum deposits.
Brunei covers 2,226 square miles (5,765 square kilometres) and has a population of 300,000.
Its official name is Brunei Darussalam, which means Brunei, Abode of Peace. Bandar Seri Begawan is its largest city.
Brunei was a protectorate of Britain from 1888 to 1984, when it became an independent nation.
Capital city
Bandar Seri Begawan
7001 miles from London
GMT +8 hours
International aircraft prefix
V8
International dialling code
00 673
Currency
Brunei Dollar (BND)
Language
Malay, English and Chinese
National holidays
23 February - National Day
Embassy details
British High Commission
2nd Floor, Block D
Komplex Bangunan Yayasan
Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah
Jalan Pretty
Bandar Seri Begawan BS8711
Telephone (00 673) (02) 222231
Opening hours 0830 to 1245/1400 to 1700 Monday to Thursday, 0830 to 1230 Friday (local time)
email brithc@brunei.bn
National Anthem
"God Bless The Sultan".
National flag
Yellow background with 2 diagonal bands of white and black with the red national emblem centred


BULGARIA
Bulgaria is a country on the Balkan Peninsula of southeastern Europe. It is bordered by Romania on the north, Yugoslavia and Macedonia on the west, Greece and Turkey on the south, and the Black Sea on the east.
Mountains cover most of Bulgaria. Fertile valleys and plains separate the mountains in a large number of areas.
Until the late 1940's, a majority of Bulgarians lived in rural areas and worked on farms. Today, most of Bulgaria's people live in cities. Many work in such industries as food processing and production of metal goods. Sofia is the largest city of Bulgaria.
About 3,000 years ago, a people called the Thracians established the first civilization in what is now Bulgaria. The region became part of the Roman Empire during the A.D. 40's. Between the late 600's and the mid-1300's, Bulgaria twice ruled a powerful kingdom that covered most of the Balkan Peninsula. In the late 1300's, the Ottoman Empire conquered the country. Russia helped Bulgaria gain freedom from Ottoman rule in 1878. The country became fully independent in 1908.
Official Name
Republika Bulgariya (Republic of Bulgaria).
Area
42,823 sq. mi. (110,912 sq. km).
Greatest distances
east-west, 306 mi. (492 km);
north-south, 170 mi. (274 km).
Coastline - 175 mi. (282 km).
Elevation
Highest - Musala Peak, 9,596 ft. (2,925 m) above sea level.
Lowest - sea level.
Population
Estimated 1996 population - 8,415,000; density, 208 persons per sq. mi. (80 per sq. km); distribution, 71 percent urban, 29 percent rural. 1992 census - 8,472,724. Estimated 2001 population - 8,421,000.
Chief Products
Agriculture - wheat, corn, barley, sugar beets, grapes, tobacco, milk.
Manufacturing - machinery, processed foods, metal products, textiles.
Mining - salt, sulfur, lead, kaolin, copper.
National Anthem
"Mila Rodino" ("Dear Homeland").
Capital city
Sofia
1254 miles from London
GMT +2 hours
International aircraft prefix
LZ
International dialling code
00 359
Currency
Lev (BGL)
Language
Bulgarian
Vehicle nationality plates
BG
National holidays
3 March - Independence Day
Embassy details
British Embassy
38 Boulevard Vassil Levski
Sofia 1000
Telephone (00 359) (2) 9801220
Opening hours 0830 to 1730 Monday to Thursday, 0830 to 1300 Friday in winter (one hour earlier in summer) (local time)
email britembsof@mbox.cit.bg
National Anthem
"Dear Motherland".
National flag
3 horizontal bands of white, green and red




BURKINA FASO
Burkina Faso is a country in western Africa. It lies about 600 miles (970 kilometres) east of the Atlantic Ocean in the western "bulge" of Africa. The country was formerly called Upper Volta. In 1984, its name was changed to Burkina Faso. Burkina is a name for the country's people. It means honest people. Burkina Faso means land of the honest people.
Landlocked Burkina Faso is one of Africa's poorest and least developed countries. It consists mostly of wooded, grassy plains atop a plateau. The dry, rocky landscape turns green for only a few months each year. Because the country lacks rich soil and mineral deposits, many of its people have only the bare necessities of life. Most people are Africans who make their living by farming and raising cattle. France governed Burkina Faso for 63 years before it became independent in 1960. Ouagadougou is the capital and largest city.

Official Language
French.
Area
105,792 sq. mi. (274,000 sq. km).
Greatest distances
east-west, 525 mi. (845 km); north-south, 400 mi. (644 km).
Elevation
Highest - Aiguille de Sindou, 2,352 ft. (717 m) above sea level, in the southwest.
Lowest - about 650 ft. (198 m) above sea level.
Population
Estimated 1998 population - 11,119,000; density, 105 persons per sq. mi. (41 per sq. km); distribution, 80 percent rural, 20 percent urban. 1985 census - 7,964,705. Estimated 2003 population - 12,593,000.
Chief Products
Agriculture - corn, cotton, fonio, livestock, millet, shea nuts, rice.
National Anthem
"L' Hymne de la Victoire" ("The Anthem of Victory").
Money
Basic unit - franc.
National Anthem
"One Single Night".
Flag
Two equal horizontal stripes of red and green. A yellow star lies in the centre. Adopted in 1984.


BURUNDI
Burundi is one of the smallest and most crowded countries in Africa. Bujumbura is its capital and largest urban community. Burundi is a poor country. It has few minerals and little industry. The country's soil has been weakened by heavy rainfall, erosion, and poor farming methods. A majority of the people of Burundi are farmers who raise only enough food to feed their families. Burundi is located far inland, and as a result, transportation of goods for overseas trade is costly. Burundi is located in east-central Africa, just south of the equator. However, Burundi has a cool, pleasant climate, because it is a mountainous country.
Most of Burundi's people belong to the Hutu (sometimes called Bahutu) ethnic group. The Tutsi (sometimes called the Batutsi or Watusi) ethnic group form a minority, but they dominate the Hutu economically.
Burundi once formed the Urundi, or southern half, of Ruanda-Urundi, a United Nations (UN) trust territory administered by Belgium. What is now Rwanda formed the Ruanda, or northern half. In 1962, the two parts became the independent nations of Burundi and Rwanda.

Official Languages
Kirundi and French.
Area
10,747 sq. mi. (27,834 sq. km).
Greatest distances
north-south, 150 mi. (241 km); east-west, 135 mi. (217 km).
Population
Estimated 1996 population - 6,510,000; density, 606 persons per sq. mi. (234 per sq. km); distribution, 94 percent rural, 6 percent urban. 1990 census - 5,139,073. Estimated 2001 population - 7,420,000.
Chief Products
Agriculture - bananas, beans, cassava, coffee, corn, cotton, livestock, sweet potatoes, tea.
Fishing - fresh-water fish.
Money
Basic unit - franc.
National Anthem
"Our Burundi".
Flag
From a white circle in the centre, white bands extend to the corners. The field is red above and below the circle, and green to the left and right of it. In the circle are three red stars rimmed in green.

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