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Falkland Islands make up a British dependency in the South Atlantic Ocean. The islands lie about 320 miles (515 kilometres) east of the southern coast of Argentina. They form the southernmost British dependency outside the British Antarctic Territory. Argentina also claims ownership of the Falkland Islands. Argentina calls the islands the Islas Malvinas.
The dependency includes two large islands, East and West Falkland, and about 200 smaller ones. East Falkland covers 2,580 square miles (6,682 square kilometres), and West Falkland covers 2,038 square miles (5,278 square kilometres). The remaining islands have a combined area of about 80 square miles (210 square kilometres). All the islands together have a coastline of 610 miles (982 kilometres). The climate is damp and cool. Strong winds limit the growth of trees on the islands.
Most of the approximately 2,000 inhabitants are of British origin. About half the people live in Stanley, the capital and chief town. Stanley is on East Falkland Island. The Falkland Islands' main source of income comes from the sale of fishing licenses to foreign fishing fleets. Many of the islanders raise sheep and export wool. The sale of postage stamps and coins, primarily to collectors, also contributes to the economy.
A governor rules the dependency, aided by an executive and legislative council. The government provides schools which children must attend. Traveling teachers instruct children in isolated settlements.
The English explorer John Davis sighted the Falklands in 1592. British Captain John Strong first landed on the islands in 1690. He named them for Viscount Falkland, the British treasurer of the navy. France, Spain, and Argentina later laid claim to the islands. British rule was established in the islands in 1833, and the Falklands are now an important British base. The British won a great naval victory over Germany near the Falklands in 1914, during World War I.
Argentina has continued to claim the Falkland Islands. In April 1982, Argentine troops invaded and occupied the islands. Britain responded by sending troops, ships, and planes to the Falklands. Air, sea, and land battles broke out between Argentina and Britain. The Argentine forces surrendered in June 1982.

Faroe Islands, also spelled Faeroe and Foroyar, are a group of 18 islands and some reefs in the North Atlantic Ocean. They lie between Iceland and the Shetland Islands. The group has an area of 540 square miles (1,399 square kilometres), and a population of about 42,000. The major islands are Streymoy, Eysturoy, Vagar, Sudhuroy, and Sandoy.
The 140-mile (225-kilometre) coastline is steep and deeply indented. Treacherous currents along the shores of the islands make navigation difficult. The islanders are a people of Norse origin who mainly fish and raise sheep. They also sell the eggs and feathers of the many sea birds that nest on the cliffs. The islanders do little farming.
Norway ruled over the Faroe Islands from the 800's until 1380, when the islands came under the control of Denmark. British forces occupied the islands during World War II (1939-1945), but the civil government remained the same.
In 1948, Denmark granted the Faroes self-government. The islanders have their own parliament, or Lagting, and send representatives to the Danish parliament in Copenhagen. The seat of government is Torshavn on Streymoy.

Fiji is a country in the South Pacific Ocean. It is made up of about 330 islands and about 500 more tiny atolls, islets, and reefs. The island of Viti Levu (Big Fiji) covers about half of Fiji's area, and Vanua Levu (Big Land) about a third. Many of Fiji's other islands are merely piles of sand on coral reefs. Suva is the largest city.
About 48 percent of Fiji's people are native Fijians of chiefly Melanesian descent. About 46 percent are descendants of labourers imported from India. The remainder - Fiji's so-called "general" population group - have Chinese, European, Micronesian, or Polynesian ancestry. Fiji became independent in 1970 after being a British crown colony since 1874.
Official Language
7,056 sq. mi. (18,274 sq. km).
Greatest distances
north-south, 364 mi. (586 km);
east-west, 334 mi. (538 km).
Coastline - 925 mi. (1,489 km).
Highest - Mount Tomanivi, on Viti Levu, 4,341 ft. (1,323 m) above sea level.
Lowest - sea level.
Estimated 1996 population - 769,000; density, 109 persons per sq. mi. (42 per sq. km); distribution, 59 percent rural, 41 percent urban. 1986 census - 715,375. Estimated 2001 population - 808,000.
Chief Products
Agriculture - coconuts, forest products, sugar.
Manufacturing - beer, cement, cigarettes.
Mining - gold.
Money: Basic unit--Fiji dollar.
National Anthem
God Bless Fiji.
The British Union Jack appears in the upper left on a light blue field. On the right is the shield from Fiji's coat of arms with a British lion, a dove, coconut palms, and such agricultural products as bananas and sugar cane. Adopted on Oct. 10, 1970.

Finland is a country in northern Europe famous for its scenic beauty. Thousands of lovely lakes dot Finland's landscape, and thick forests cover almost two-thirds of the land. The country has a long, deeply indented coast, marked by colourful red and gray granite rocks. Thousands of scenic islands lie offshore.
Sweden lies to the west of Finland, northern Norway lies to the north, and Russia lies to the east. The Gulf of Finland and the Gulf of Bothnia, two extensions of the Baltic Sea, border Finland on the south and southwest. The northernmost part of the country lies inside the Arctic Circle in a region called the Land of the Midnight Sun. In this region of Finland, the sun shines 24 hours a day for long periods each summer. Helsinki, the country's largest city, is located in the south on the Gulf of Finland.
Most of Finland's people live in the southern part of the country, where the climate is mildest. Finns love the outdoors and the arts. They have a high standard of living and receive many welfare benefits from the government.
Most of Finland's wealth comes from its huge forests. They form the basis of the country's thriving forest-products industry, which includes woodworking and the manufacture of paper and pulp.
Finland's location between Russia on the east and Sweden on the west has played an important role in the country's history. In the 1000's, Sweden and Russia began to battle for possession of Finland. Sweden gradually gained control in the 1100's and 1200's, but conflict between Sweden and Russia over Finland continued for hundreds of years. Today, Swedish remains equal with Finnish as an official language of Finland. Russia controlled the country from 1809 until 1917, when Finland declared its independence. The nation became a republic with a president and parliament. During World War II (1939-1945), Finland fought two wars with the Soviet Union, which was formed under Russia's leadership in 1922 and existed until 1991.
Official Name
Republic of Finland. Finland's name in Finnish is Suomi.
130,559 sq. mi. (338,145 sq. km), including 12,943 sq. mi. (33,522 sq. km) of inland water.
Greatest distances
east-west, 320 mi. (515 km);
north-south, 640 mi. (1,030 km).
Coastline - 1,462 mi. (2,353 km).
Highest - Mount Haltia, 4,344 ft. (1,324 m) above sea level.
Lowest - sea level.
Estimated 1996 population - 5,059,000; density, 39 persons per sq. mi. (15 per sq. km); distribution, 60 percent urban, 40 percent rural. 1990 census - 4,998,478. Estimated 2001 population - 5,123,000.
Chief Products
Agriculture - milk, hogs, beef cattle, barley, sugar beets, potatoes, oats.
Forestry - birch, pine, spruce.
Manufacturing - paper products, machinery, ships, wood products, chemicals.
Mining - iron ore, copper, zinc.
National Anthem
"Maamme" (in Finnish) or "Vart Land" (in Swedish), meaning "Our Land."
Capital city
1114 miles from London
GMT +2 hours
International aircraft prefix
International dialling code
00 358
Finnish and Swedish
Vehicle nationality plates
National holidays
6 December - Independence Day
Embassy details
British Embassy
Itainen Puistotie 17
Opening hours for all services 0900 to 1200 Monday to Friday (local time)
National flag
White with a blue cross

France is the largest country of Western Europe in area. It covers about 213,000 square miles (552,000 square kilometres).
Paris, the largest city of France, is one of the world's great cities. For hundreds of years, Paris has been a world capital of art and learning. Many great artists have produced their finest masterpieces there. Every year, millions of tourists visit such famous Paris landmarks as the Cathedral of Notre Dame, the Eiffel Tower, and the Louvre - one of the largest art museums in the world.
There is much more to France than just Paris, however. The snow-capped Alps form the border between France and Italy. Sunny beaches and steep cliffs stretch along the French coast on the Mediterranean Sea. Fishing villages dot the Atlantic coast of northwestern France. The peaceful, wooded Loire Valley has many historic chateaux (castles). Colourful apple orchards, dairy farms, and vineyards lie throughout much of the countryside. Many regions of France have fields of golden wheat.
The French are famous for their enjoyment of life. Good food and good wine are an important part of everyday living for most French people. The wines of France are considered the best in the world. Almost every restaurant and area has at least one special recipe of its own. The delicious breads, appetisers, sauces, soups, and desserts of France are copied by cooks in most parts of the world.
France has a long and colourful history. Julius Caesar and his Roman soldiers conquered the region before the time of Christ. Then, after Rome fell, the Franks and other Germanic tribes invaded the region. France was named for the Franks. By the A.D. 800's, the mighty Charlemagne, king of the Franks, had built the area into a huge kingdom.
In 1792, during the French Revolution, France became one of the first nations to overthrow its king and set up a republic. A few years later, Napoleon Bonaparte seized power. He conquered much of Europe before he finally was defeated. During World Wars I and II, France was a bloody battleground for Allied armies and the invading German forces.
France is not only a beautiful and historic country, it is also rich and powerful. France has great automobile, chemical, and steel industries. It is a leader in growing wheat, vegetables, and many other crops. France stands fifth among the countries of the world in its trade with other nations, as measured by exports. France also plays an important part in world politics. Its foreign policies affect millions of people in other countries.
The political importance of France today resulted partly from the leadership of Charles de Gaulle, who served as president of the country from 1958 to 1969. De Gaulle established a strong French republic. He looked on France as a world power and followed a policy that was independent of both the United States and the Communist nations. De Gaulle ended France's close military ties with the United States and tried to improve relations with Communist countries. De Gaulle's actions angered many other nations, but to the proud people of France he was a symbol of their nation's greatness.
Official Name
Republique Francaise (French Republic).
National Anthem
"La Marseillaise."
National Motto
Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite (Liberty, Equality, Fraternity).
Largest Cities
Paris (2,176,243);
Marseille (874,436);
Lyon (413,095);
Toulouse (347,995);
Nice (337,085).
Largest Metropolitan Areas
Paris (8,706,963);
Lyon (1,236,096);
Marseille (1,115,697);
Lille (945,572);
Bordeaux (650,123).
France lies in western Europe, with coastlines on the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea. The country borders Spain, Andorra, Monaco, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Luxembourg, and Belgium, and lies across the English Channel from the United Kingdom. The Pyrenees Mountains separate France from Spain. The Alps border Italy; the Alps and Jura Mountains border Switzerland. The Central Highlands occupies south-central France. Most of northern, western, and north-central France is flat or has rolling hills.
Major rivers include the Loire, Seine, and Rhone.
212,935 sq. mi. (551,500 sq. km), including mainland France and Corsica.
Greatest distances
east-west, 605 mi. (974 km);
north-south, 590 mi. (950 km).
Coastline - 2,300 mi. (3,701 km).
Highest - Mont Blanc, 15,771 ft. (4,807 m).
Lowest - below sea level at the Rhone River delta.
Warm summers and cool winters, except on the Mediterranean coast, which is warmer in all seasons. Typical daytime summer high about 75 degrees F (24 degrees C) in the north; 82 degrees F (28 degrees C) on the Mediterranean coast. Winter daytime highs about 43 degrees F (6 degrees C) in the north; about 54 degrees F (12 degrees C) on the Mediterranean coast. Moderate precipitation the year around, except for dry summers along the Mediterranean.
Form of Government
Parliamentary democracy.
Head of State
President (elected by people to 7-year term).
Head of Government
Prime minister.
Parliament of two houses - the National Assembly (577 members) and the Senate (319 members). The National Assembly is more powerful than the Senate.
Prime minister and president each have some executive powers.
Highest court is the Court of Cassation.
Political Subdivisions
22 regions, containing 96 metropolitan departments.
1996 estimate - 57,971,000; 1990 census - 56,634,299. 2001 estimate - 58,939,000. Population Density: 272 persons per sq. mi. (105 per sq. km).Distribution: 73 percent urban, 27 percent rural.
Major Ethnic/National Groups
About 93 percent French (including Basques, Bretons, and others who have long lived in France). About 7 percent recent immigrants and their descendants - mostly from Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Turkey, and Indochina.
Major Religions
75 percent Roman Catholic, 3 percent Muslim, 2 percent Protestant, 1 percent Jewish.
Chief Products
Agriculture - beef cattle, milk, wheat, grapes, sugar beets, potatoes, apples, hogs, chickens and eggs.
Manufacturing - iron and steel, chemicals, automobiles, electronic goods, textiles and clothing, aerospace equipment, processed foods and beverages, railway equipment.
Mining - iron ore.
Foreign Trade
Major exports - chemicals, machinery, electrical and electronic equipment, automobiles, aircraft, weapons, wine, grains, iron and steel.
Major imports - petroleum, machinery, chemicals, automobiles.
Major trading partners - Germany, Italy, Belgium, United Kingdom, United States, Netherlands, Spain.
Capital city
212 miles from London
GMT +1 hour
International aircraft prefix
International dialling code
00 33
Vehicle nationality plates
National holidays
14 July - Bastille Day
Embassy details
British Embassy
18 Bis Rue d'Anjou
75008 Paris
Telephone (00 33) (01) 44513102
Opening hours 0900 to 1230 and 1430 to 1700 Monday to Friday (local time)
web site
National flag
3 equal vertical bands of blue, white and red
The French flag is called the tricolour. In 1789, King Louis XVI first used its three colours to represent France.

French Guiana is an overseas department (administrative district) of France on the northeastern coast of South America. It covers about 35,135 square miles (91,000 square kilometres) and has a population of about 73,000. Cayenne is the capital and largest city.
Almost all the people of French Guiana are people of mixed ancestry. Most are descendants of slaves who were brought to French Guiana during the 1600's and 1700's. Many are Haitians who moved to French Guiana in the 1980's. The rest of the people are American Indians, Chinese, Europeans, Indochinese, Lebanese, and Syrians. The Indians were the first people to live in French Guiana. Today, they live in the interior. Most of the rest of the people live along the coast.
The interior of French Guiana is largely wilderness. The interior has important mineral and forest resources, but they have not been developed. French Guiana depends heavily on France for financial support.
Historically, French Guiana has been known for its penal colonies. For about 150 years, France sent convicts to French Guiana. Political prisoners were kept on Devils Island, an offshore isle. Other convicts were kept in prison camps at Kourou and Saint-Laurent. The prison camps were widely known for their cruelty. The French finally closed them in 1945 and sent the prisoners back to France. In the 1960's, France turned the camp at Kourou into a space research centre.
French Guiana was made an overseas department of France in 1946. Its government is like that of France's mainland departments. French Guiana is administered by an elected general council made up of 16 members. The members of the general council elect the president of the department. French Guiana has one representative in each house of the French Parliament. The court system in French Guiana is much like the court system of France.
Most French Guianans speak French, the department's official language. Many Creoles also speak a dialect that is a mixture of French and English. Most of the people are Roman Catholics.
Children are required by law to attend school. French Guiana has both public and private elementary schools, a high school, and two vocational schools. About 75 per cent of the people can read and write.
After French Guiana became an overseas department of France in 1946, the French government built hospitals and clinics there. The French government has also waged campaigns to wipe out leprosy, malaria, and tuberculosis in the department.
French Guiana has three land regions a coastal plain in the north, a hilly plateau in the center, and the Tumuc-Humac Mountains in the south. Rain forests cover most of the country. More than 20 rivers flow north through French Guiana to the Atlantic Ocean. The most important rivers are the Maroni and the Oyapock. The Maroni forms part of the border between French Guiana and Suriname. The Oyapock flows along French Guiana's border with Brazil.
French Guiana has a tropical climate. Temperatures average about 80 °F. (27 °C) throughout the year. About 130 inches (330 centimetres) of rain falls annually, most of it from December to June.
French Guiana's economy is not well developed. The department depends on France for money to operate its government, to help support its industries, and to pay for health care and other services. Most of the workers are employed by the government.
French Guiana's chief industries include gold mining and the processing of agricultural and forest products. A shrimp industry is being developed. The leading farm products include bananas, cattle, corn, pineapples, rice, sugar cane, and yams. The farmers do not raise enough food to feed the people, and so much food must be imported.
The interior of French Guiana has rich, well-watered soil; valuable timberland; and large deposits of bauxite, an ore used in making aluminum. But these resources have not been developed.
The French were the first Europeans to settle in what is now French Guiana. They came in the early 1600's, when many European nations were building colonial empires in the Americas. French Guiana became a French colony in 1667. Since then, the region has been under French control, except for a short period in the early 1800's when it was ruled by British and Portuguese military forces.
France began to send political prisoners to French Guiana during the French Revolution in the 1790's. In 1854, a formal prison system was established in the colony. About 70,000 people were held in the prisons from 1852 to 1945, when France closed them.
French Guiana became an overseas department of France in 1946. Since then, French Guiana has worked, with the help of France, to develop its economy and improve the life of its people. In the 1980's, a strong movement for independence from France developed in French Guiana. But most of the people want French Guiana to remain an overseas department of France.

French Polynesia is an overseas territory of France in the South Pacific Ocean. The territory is made up of more than 120 islands scattered over an area about the size of Western Europe. These islands consist of the Austral, Gambier, Marquesas, Society, and Tuamotu island groups. Papeete, on Tahiti - one of the Society Islands - is the capital of the territory.
About 70 per cent of the territory's people are Polynesians. Tourism, agriculture, and fishing are important economic activities. The chief products include copra (dried coconut meat), pearls, fish, and tropical fruits and vegetables. French Polynesians elect representatives to the French Parliament and vote in French presidential elections.


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