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International Information: N - O

International Information: N - O

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Namibia is a country in southwestern Africa. It was formerly named South West Africa. Windhoek is the largest city of Namibia.
Most of Namibia's people are coloured, but the territory was controlled by the white government of neighbouring South Africa from 1916 to 1990. In March 1990, after many years of negotiations, Namibia gained full independence from South Africa.
Much of Namibia's land is dry and unfertile. But the land is rich in mineral deposits, including diamonds and uranium.
Official Language
Official Name
Republic of Namibia.
318,261 sq. mi. (824,292 sq. km).
Greatest distances
east-west, about 880 mi. (1,420 km);
north-south, about 820 mi. (1,320 km).
Coastline - 925 mi. (1,489 km).
Highest - Brandberg, 8,465 ft. (2,580 m) above sea level.
Lowest - sea level, along the coast.
Estimated 1996 population - 1,739,000; density, 5 persons per sq. mi. (2 per sq. km); distribution, 69 percent rural, 31 percent urban. 1991 census - 1,401,711. Estimated 2001 population - 2,021,000.
Chief Products
Agriculture - cattle, fish, sheep, corn, millet, vegetables.
Mining - copper, diamonds, lead, uranium oxide, zinc.
Basic unit - rand.
A large blue triangle is in the upper left corner, and a large green triangle is in the lower right corner. A sun appears on the blue triangle. The triangles are separated by a red diagonal stripe bordered by white. Adopted 1990.

Nauru is a small island country in the central Pacific Ocean. It is part of Micronesia, one of the three groups of the Pacific Islands. Nauru consists of a single island, which has an area of only 8 square miles (21 square kilometres). It is the third smallest country in the world. Only Vatican City and Monaco are smaller. Nauru is rich in phosphates - valuable chemical compounds used in making fertilisers. Phosphate exports earn a large part of the Nauruan government's revenue.
Nauru has no capital city. The main government offices of the country are located on the southwestern part of the island. The Australian dollar is Nauru's basic unit of currency.
Nauru is a republic and a member of the Commonwealth of Nations. An 18-member Parliament makes the country's laws. Parliament members are elected by the people to three-year terms. All Nauruans who are 20 years old or older may vote. The Parliament elects a president to a three-year term. The president selects a Cabinet. The president and the Cabinet carry out the executive functions of the government.
Nauru, an oval-shaped coral island, lies about 40 miles (65 kilometres) south of the equator. Most of the island is a plateau, 200 feet (61 metres) high, which contains deposits of phosphates. Near the centre of the plateau is a lagoon surrounded by a small area of fertile land. Another belt of fertile land lies along the coast.
Most of the people live along the 12-mile (19-kilometre) coastline. In the past, the people raised their own food. Now, they import most of their food and other products they need. Nauru has a tropical climate that is cooled by trade winds. Temperatures range from 76 °F (24 °C) to 93 °F (34 °C). About 80 inches (200 centimetres) of rain falls yearly.
About half of Nauru's population of 12,000 are Nauruans - people of mixed Polynesian, Micronesian, and Melanesian ancestry. They are Christians. Most of them speak both the Nauruan language and English. The rest of Nauru's people are from Kiribati, Tuvalu, China, and Australia. They come for limited periods of time to help mine the phosphates.
The government provides Nauruans with modern homes at low rents, and 2 government hospitals and 11 clinics give them free medical care. The law requires Nauruan children between the ages of 6 and 17 to attend school. Nauru has five nursery schools, an elementary school, a high school, a Roman Catholic mission school, and a teacher training college. The government pays the expenses of students who attend universities in other countries.
Phosphates are Nauru's only important resource and the country's only export. A government-owned shipping company in Nauru serves many regions in the Pacific Ocean. A government-owned airline provides service to many Pacific areas. Nauru's government encourages such local industries as fishing and canoe building. Products that are imported include automobiles, food, furniture, machinery, medicine, and shoes. Nauru also imports water for its needs.
Captain John Fearn, an English explorer, was the first European to visit Nauru. He came in 1798. In 1888, Germany took over the island and administered it until 1914 when Australia took control. After World War I (1914-1918), Australia began to administer the island under a League of Nations mandate held also by Britain, Australia, and New Zealand.
Japan seized Nauru during World War II (1939-1945). In 1945, Australian forces retook the island. In 1947, the United Nations (UN) provided for Australian control of the island under a trusteeship held also by Britain, Australia, and New Zealand. In 1964, Nauru began to work for independence and control of the phosphate industry. Nauru became independent in 1968 after a UN-supervised plebiscite (popular vote). In 1970, the Nauruan government gained control of the phosphate industry. Since then, the government has used revenue from phosphate exports to build homes, schools, and hospitals. It has also saved and invested much of the revenue to help support the Nauruan people after all the phosphates have been mined.

Nepal is a country in south-central Asia. The highest mountain range in the world - the Himalaya - and a region of hills and valleys cover about 80 per cent of Nepal. The Tarai (or Terai) - a flat, fertile river plain along Nepal's border with India - covers the rest of the country.
Kathmandu is its largest city. Mount Everest, the highest mountain in the world, rises 29,028 feet (8,848 metres) above sea level in the Himalaya on Nepal's border with Tibet, a region in China.
About 45 per cent of Nepal's people live in the Tarai. The rest of the people live in the hills and valleys region or in the mountains. Patches of farmland lie among the mountains of Nepal. These cultivated areas account for only about 10 per cent of the country's mountainous area, but almost all of the mountain people live there. Nepal is poor and undeveloped. The country also has a high rate of disease and illiteracy.
Official Language
54,362 sq. mi. (140,797 sq. km).
Greatest distances
east-west, 500 mi. (805 km);
north-south, 150 mi. (241 km).
Highest - Mount Everest, 29,028 ft. (8,848 m) above sea level.
Lowest - 150 ft. (46 m) above sea level.
Estimated 1996 population - 20,339,000; density, 383 persons per sq. mi. (148 per sq. km); distribution, 86 percent rural, 14 percent urban. 1991 census - 18,462,081. Estimated 2001 population - 23,340,000.
Basic unit - rupee.
Chief Products
Cattle, corn, rice, oilseeds, wheat.
National Anthem
"Rashtriya Dhun" ("National Anthem").
The flag has two crimson triangles trimmed in blue, one above the other. The top triangle features the moon and the lower one the sun, symbols of the long life of Nepal. It is the only nonrectangular country flag.

Netherlands is a small country on the North Sea in northwestern Europe. It is bordered by Belgium and Germany. The Netherlands is often called Holland, but this name officially refers only to the western part of the country. The people of the Netherlands call themselves Nederlanders. They are also known as the Dutch.
"God created the world, but the Dutch created Holland," according to an old Dutch saying. More than two-fifths of the country's land was once covered by the sea, or by lakes or swamps. The Dutch "created" this land by pumping out the water. These drained areas, called polders, became some of the richest farmlands of the Netherlands.
To make a polder, the Dutch build a dyke around the area to be drained of water. The water is then pumped into a series of drainage canals. Windmills were once used to run the pumps, but electric motors have replaced most of them. Most polders are below sea level, and they collect excess water through seepage. As a result, pumping must continue after the polders are built.
The Zuider Zee, once a large inlet of the North Sea, was cut off from the sea in 1932 by a dyke 20 miles (32 kilometres) long. This development changed the Zuider Zee into a freshwater lake called the IJsselmeer. Much of the lake was then drained to make several large polders. This project added 637 square miles (1,650 square kilometres) of land for new farms and cities. The Netherlands gained an entire new province, Flevoland.
The people of the Netherlands have great pride in their long battle against the sea. Because their country is one of the most densely populated countries in the world, they take extreme care to protect their hard-won land and to plan wisely the use of every acre. Several times during their history, however, the Dutch have opened the dykes and flooded the land to save their country from invaders.
Most of the Netherlands is flat, though it has some uplands. Many canals cut through the country. They not only drain the land but also serve as waterways.
Dairy farming is the most important form of agriculture in the Netherlands. The processing of dairy products is a major branch of Dutch manufacturing.
The country's rulers have included the Romans, a Germanic people called the Franks, the Spanish, and the French. The Dutch declared independence from Spain in 1581, and Spain recognised their independence in 1648. In 1815, the Netherlands became an independent kingdom united with Belgium. The two countries separated in 1830, when Belgium declared its independence.
The Dutch experienced a period of great prosperity and power - a Golden Age - during the 1600's. At that time, the country was the world's leading sea power, and it ruled a great colonial empire. Amsterdam was an important trading centre, and Dutch businesses thrived. The Golden Age was also a time of cultural achievement, especially in painting.
Seat of government
The Hague.
Official name
Koninkrijk der Nederlanden (Kingdom of the Netherlands).
National anthem
"Wilhelmus can Nassouwe" ("William of Nassau").
Largest cities: (1994 official estimates)
Amsterdam (724,096);
Rotterdam (598,5210;
The Hague (445,279);
Utrecht (234,106).
Largest metropolitan areas: (1994 official estimates)
Amsterdam (1,100,120);
Rotterdam (1,074,387);
The Hague (695,217);
Utrecht (545,796).
The Netherlands is on the North Sea in northwestern Europe. It is bordered by Belgium and Germany. Most of the Netherlands is flat, though it has some uplands. Part of the country is made up of polders, land below sea level that was once covered by water. The Dutch built dikes around these areas and drained the water.
16,003 sq. mi. (41,447 sq. km), including 2,929 sq. mi. (7,587 sq. km) of inland water.
Greatest distances
north-south, 196 mi. (315 km);
east-west, 167 mi. (269 km).
Coastline - 228 mi. (367 km).
Highest - Vaalser Berg, 1,053 ft. (321 m) above sea level.
Lowest - Prins Alexander Polder, 22 ft. (6.7 m) below sea level.
The Netherlands has a mild, damp climate, with moderately warm summers and gentle winters. Temperatures average from 60 to 65 degrees F (16 to 18 degrees C) in summer, and a little above 30 degrees F (-1 degree C) in winter. Extremely hot or cold temperatures are rare. Summer is the wettest season, though precipitation is fairly evenly distributed throughout the year. Most regions of the country receive about 25 to 30 inches (63 to 76 centimetres) of precipitation a year.
Form of government
Constitutional monarchy.
Ceremonial head of state
Monarch (king or queen).
Head of government
Prime minister.
States-General of two houses: 75-member First Chamber and 150-member Second Chamber.
Prime minister and Cabinet.
Political subdivisions
12 provinces.
Estimated 1998 population - 15,760,000. 1971 census - 13,060,115. Estimated 2003 population - 16,086,000. Population density: 1,203 persons per sq. mi. (464 persons per sq. km). Distribution: 61 percent urban, 39 percent rural.
Major ethnic/national groups
Almost entirely Dutch. Largest non-Dutch groups include people from Indonesia, Morocco, Suriname, and Turkey.
Major religions
About 30 percent Roman Catholic, about 30 percent Protestant (mostly Dutch Reformed Church), small percentage Muslim. Nearly half of the Dutch are not members of any church.
Chief products
Agriculture - barley, beef and dairy cattle, flowers and flower bulbs, hogs, milk, potatoes, poultry, sheep, sugar beets, vegetables, wheat.
Fishing - eels, herring, mackerel, mussels, plaice, shrimp, sole.
Manufacturing - chemicals, dairy products, electronic equipment, machinery, processed meats, transportation equipment.
Mining - natural gas, petroleum, salt.
Basic unit - guilder. One hundred cents equal one guilder.
Foreign trade
Major exported goods - automobiles, chemicals, dairy products, electric machinery, flowers, meat, petroleum, plastics, precision instruments, vegetables.
Major imported goods - automobiles, chemicals, clothing, electric machinery, iron and steel, paper and paper products, petroleum, plastics, and precision instruments.
Main trading partners - Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, United Kingdom, United States.
Capital city
220 miles from London
GMT +1 hour
International aircraft prefix
International dialling code
00 31
Vehicle nationality plates
National holidays
30 April - Queen's Day
Embassy details
British Embassy
Lange Voorhout 10
2514 Ed
The Hague
Telephone (00 31) (70) 4270427
Opening hours 0900 to 1730 Monday to Friday (local time)
web site
National flag
3 equal horizontal bands of red, white and blue. The Dutch flag dates from about 1630. Until then, an orange stripe was at the top instead of a red one. The coat of arms has old symbols of the Dutch royal family. The sword and arrows represent strength in unity.

New Caledonia is an overseas territory of France. It lies in the South Pacific Ocean, about 1,100 nautical miles (2,000 kilometres) northeast of Sydney, Australia. The territory consists of one main island, also called New Caledonia; the Loyalty Islands; the Belep Islands; the Isle of Pines; and a few uninhabited islands. The mountainous main island covers 6,467 square miles (16,749 square kilometres). The rest of the islands have a total area of only 899 square miles (2,330 square kilometres).
New Caledonia has a population of about 165,000. Noumea, on the main island, is the capital and only city. Melanesians, the largest group of people, make up about two-fifths of the population. Europeans form the second largest population group. Other groups include Indonesians, Polynesians, and Vietnamese.
New Caledonia is one of the world's leading producers of nickel. Nickel mining and smelting are the leading industries. Other minerals produced in New Caledonia include chromite and cobalt. Farmers raise their own food and small amounts of coffee and copra for export.
A French official appointed by the French government heads the government of New Caledonia. A locally elected congress of New Caledonians shares governmental functions with this official.
Melanesians, probably from New Guinea, reached New Caledonia at least 4,000 years ago. In 1774, James Cook, a British navigator, became the first European to land on the main island. He called it New Caledonia because it resembled Scotland (Caledonia in Latin). France took possession of New Caledonia in 1853. The United States had a large military base on the main island from 1942 to 1945. In the 1980's, many Melanesians demanded independence for New Caledonia. Most other New Caledonians favored continued French control. In a referendum held in 1987, New Caledonians voted to continue French control. But the Melanesians continued to demand independence. In 1988, violence erupted between some Melanesians and French officials. Later that year, voters approved a peace agreement that provided for a referendum on independence in 1998.

New Zealand is an island country in the Southwest Pacific Ocean. It lies about 1,000 miles (1,600 kilometres) southeast of Australia and about 6,500 miles (10,500 kilometres) southwest of California. New Zealand belongs to a large island group called Polynesia.
The country consists of two main islands - the North Island and the South Island - and several dozen much smaller islands. Most of the smaller islands are several hours by boat from the main ones. Wellington is the capital of New Zealand, and Auckland is the largest city. The country was once part of the British Empire. Today, it is an independent member of the Commonwealth of Nations, an association of countries that replaced the empire.
New Zealand is a beautiful country of snow-capped mountains, green lowlands, beaches, and many lakes and waterfalls. No place is more than 80 miles (130 kilometres) from the coast, and in few places are mountains or hills out of view.
A brown-skinned people called Maoris were among the first people to live in New Zealand. They came from Polynesian islands located northeast of New Zealand. Europeans discovered the country in 1642, but they did not start to settle in the islands until the late 1700's. Today, most New Zealanders are descendants of the early European settlers. About 10 percent of the people are Maoris. A New Zealander of European descent is known as a pakeha. Pakeha is the Maori word for white man.
New Zealand's standard of living ranks among the highest in the world. For many years, the country's economy depended largely on agriculture. Today, agriculture, manufacturing, and service industries are all important to the economy. New Zealand's economy depends on trade with numerous countries. These countries include Australia, Britain, Japan, and the United States.
New Zealand has a long tradition of equal rights and benefits for all its citizens. In 1893, it became the first nation in the world to give women the vote. In addition, New Zealand was among the first countries to provide social security benefits and old-age pensions for its people. Today, the nation has one of the world's finest public health programs.
104,454 sq. mi. (270,534 sq. km).
North Island - 44,701 sq. mi. (115,777 sq. km);
South Island - 58,385 sq. mi. (151,215 sq. km);
Stewart Island - 674 sq. mi. (1,746 sq. km);
Chatam Islands - 372 sq. mi. (963 sq. km);
other islands - 322 sq. mi. (837 sq. km).
about 3,200 mi. (5,150 km).
Highest - Mount Cook, 12,349 ft. (3,764 m) above sea level.
Lowest - sea level along the coast.
Estimated 1996 population - 3,583,000; density, 34 persons per sq. mi. (13 per sq. km); distribution, 84 percent urban, 16 percent rural. 1991 census - 3,434,949. Estimated 2001 population - 3,739,000.
Chief Products
Agriculture - apples, barley, cattle, kiwi fruit, milk, onions, potatoes, sheep, wheat, wool.
Forestry - Douglas-fir, radiata pine.
Manufacturing - Beef, mutton and lamb, butter, cheese, dried milk products, chemicals, iron and steel, machinery, motor vehicles, paper, textiles, wood products.
"God Defend New Zealand" (national);
"God Save the Queen" (royal).
Capital city
11687 miles from London
GMT +12 hours
International aircraft prefix
International dialling code
00 64
New Zealand Dollar (NZD)
National holidays
6 February - Waitangi Day
Embassy details
British High Commission
44 Hill Street
Wellington 1
Telephone ( 00 64) (4) 4726049
Opening hours 0845 to 1700 (local time)
National flag
Blue with the UK flag in the upper hoist-side corner with four red 5-pointed stars centred in the outer half of the flag

Nicaragua is the largest country of Central America in area. It extends from the Pacific Ocean to the Caribbean Sea. About three-fifths of the country's people live in a fertile region on the Pacific side. In this region is Managua, the largest city of Nicaragua.
Most Nicaraguans have both Indian and Spanish ancestors. During the early 1500's, the Spaniards began arriving in what is now Nicaragua. They named the land for an Indian chief and his tribe - both called Nicarao - who lived there. The Nicarao way of life, like that of most other Indians of Nicaragua, has blended with Spanish customs and traditions. Today, Nicaragua has only a few Indian groups that follow their traditional way of life.
Coffee and cotton are Nicaragua's leading sources of income. They are grown in the Pacific Region of western Nicaragua and in the Central Highlands. Few people live in the thickly forested Caribbean Region in the eastern part of the country.
Official Language
50,193 sq. mi. (130,000 sq. km).
Greatest distances
north-south, 293 mi. (472 km);
east-west, 297 mi. (478 km).
Coastlines - Pacific, 215 mi. (346 km); Caribbean, 297 mi. (478 km).
Highest - Pico Mogoton, 6,913 ft. (2,107 m) above sea level.
Lowest - sea level along the coasts.
Estimated 1996 population - 4,569,000; density, 91 persons per sq. mi. (35 per sq. km); distribution, 63 percent urban, 37 percent rural. 1971 census - 1,877,952. Estimated 2001 population - 5,313,000.
Chief Products
Agriculture - coffee, cotton, corn, beef cattle, sugar cane, bananas, rice, beans.
Manufacturing - food and beverage products, clothing and textiles.

National Holiday
Independence Day, September 15.
Basic unit - gold cordoba.

Niger is a large, landlocked country in west Africa. Barren desert and mountains cover most of northern Niger. A grassy, thinly wooded plain extends along the southern border. The country, officially called the Republic of Niger, takes its name from the Niger River, which flows through its southwest corner. Niamey is Niger's largest city.
The people of Niger belong to many different ethnic groups, each with its own language and customs. Almost all the people are Africans, and a large majority are Muslims. Most people work as farmers and live in the south, where water and land are available.
Niger became an independent nation in 1960. France had ruled it for about 60 years before independence.
Official Language
489,191 sq. mi. (1,267,000 sq. km).
Greatest distances
east-west, 1,100 mi. (1,770 km);
north-south, 825 mi. (1,328 km).
Highest - Mt. Greboun, 6,378 ft. (1,944 m) above sea level.
Estimated 1996 population - 9,386,000; density, 19 persons per sq. mi. (7 per sq. km); distribution, 77 percent rural, 23 percent urban. 1988 census - 7,249,596. Estimated 2001 population - 10,961,000.
Basic unit - franc.
Chief Products
Agriculture - beans, cassava, cotton, hides and skins, livestock, millet, peanuts, peas, rice, sorghum.
Mining - uranium, natron, phosphate, salt, tin, tungsten.
Horizontal stripes of orange, white, and green; an orange circle on the white stripe.

a nation on the west coast of Africa, has more people than any other country in Africa. Nigeria ranks as one of the largest countries in the world.
Nigeria is a land of great variety. It has hot, rainy swamplands; dry, sandy areas; grassy plains; and tropical forests. High plateaus and rocky mountains rise up in various parts of the country. The population of Nigeria consists of more than 250 different ethnic (cultural) groups. Most of the country's people live in rural areas. Nigeria also has several large, crowded cities. Lagos is the largest city and chief commercial centre.
Most Nigerians earn their livelihoods by farming, fishing, or herding. The country is a leading producer of cacao, peanuts, and other crops. In addition, Nigeria has mineral resources, including large deposits of petroleum. Since the late 1960's, profits from Nigeria's growing oil industry have brought new wealth to the nation. Nigeria has used this wealth to develop new industry, improve its educational system, and modernise its agriculture.
A number of ancient kingdoms developed in the area that is now Nigeria hundreds of years ago. Some of the kingdoms became important cultural and trade centres. Britain gained control of Nigeria in the late 1800's and the early 1900's. Nigeria was a British colony and protectorate until 1960, when it gained independence.
Official Name
Federal Republic of Nigeria.
356,669 sq. mi. (923,768 sq. km).
Greatest distances
east-west, 800 mi. (1,287 km);
north-south, 650 mi. (1,046 km).
Coastline - 478 mi. (769 km).
Highest - Dimlang Peak, 6,699 ft. (2,042 m) above sea level.
Lowest - sea level.
Estimated 1996 population - 108,320,000; density, 304 persons per sq. mi. (117 per sq. km); distribution, 84 percent rural, 16 percent urban. 1991 census - 88,514,501. Estimated 2001 population - 125,661,000.
Chief Products
Agriculture - beans, beef and hides, cacao, cassava, corn, cotton, millet, palm oil and palm kernels, peanuts, rice, rubber, yams.
Mining - columbite, limestone, natural gas, petroleum, tin.
Manufacturing - cement, chemicals, clothing, food products, textiles.
National Anthem
"Arise, O Compatriots."
Capital city
3099 miles from London
GMT +1 hour
International aircraft prefix
International dialling code
00 234
Naira (NGN)
National holidays
1 October - Independence Day
Embassy details
British High Commission
Shehu Shangari Way (North)
Maitama Abuja
Telephone (00 234) (9) 4132010
Opening hours 0800 to 1500 (local time)
National flag
3 vertical bands of green, white and green

Formerly a New Zealand territory, the island of Niue, gained self-government in 1974.

Norfolk Island lies in the South Pacific Ocean, about 1,000 miles (1,600 kilometres) northeast of Sydney, Australia. Many of the island's inhabitants are descendants of crew members of the British naval ship Bounty. In 1789, those sailors of the Bounty mutinied against the way they were treated by their captain, William Bligh. They settled on Pitcairn Island in 1790. In 1856, 194 of their descendants moved to Norfolk Island.
Norfolk Island covers 14 square miles (36 square kilometres). It has a population of about 1,800. Tourism is the main source of income. Norfolk Island has fertile soil. The people grow bananas, citrus fruits, and vegetables.
In 1774, the British explorer James Cook became the first European to reach Norfolk Island. From 1788 to 1814, the island was used as a penal settlement by the Australian state of New South Wales. It again served as a penal settlement from 1825 until 1856, when the settlement was abolished. In 1914, the island was separated from New South Wales and became a territory of Australia. In 1979, the Norfolk Island Act set up a Legislative Assembly and Executive Council to handle local government matters on the island. The act preserved Australia's overall responsibility for the island.

The Turkish part of Cyprus.
This area of Cyprus is currently in dispute and the flag is only recognised by Turkey.

The North Korean Constitution gives political power to the people. But the country's Communist Party, called the Korean Workers' Party, holds the real political power. The Constitution guarantees such rights as freedom of the press, religion, and speech. But the North Korean people have almost no real freedom. The Communists maintain strict control over all aspects of life to ensure their dominance of the country.
National government of North Korea is headed by a president. The North's most powerful policymaking body is the Central People's Committee. The president of the country heads the committee. The Central People's Committee varies in size, but it usually has about 20 members.
North Korea's legislature, called the Supreme People's Assembly, elects the committee members. But these officials, who are all high-ranking members of the Communist Party, really hold office on the committee because of their positions in the party.
A body called the State Administrative Council is responsible for carrying out government policies. It is headed by a premier, who is appointed by the Supreme People's Assembly. Its other members consist of the heads of government ministries and commissions, who are appointed by the Central People's Committee.
The Supreme People's Assembly has 687 members, elected by the people to four-year terms. According to the Constitution, it is North Korea's highest government authority. But the legislature has little power. It meets only one or two weeks a year and functions according to the wishes of the Communist Party.
North Korea has nine provinces. Four cities - Chongjin, Hamhung, Kaesong, and Pyongyang - have the status of provinces. Smaller political units include cities, counties, towns, villages, and workers' settlements. The people of each unit elect a people's assembly that directs the local government.
The Korean Workers' Party is the ruling party of North Korea. Fewer than 15 percent of the people belong to the party. Even so, the party makes the country's laws, chooses all candidates for elections, and approves all people appointed to public office. Officially, North Korea has a number of other political parties. However, these parties may not oppose the policies of the Workers' Party.
The Central Court is North Korea's highest court. Its justices are chosen by the Communist Party and elected by the Supreme People's Assembly. Other courts in North Korea include provincial courts and people's courts.
Armed forces of North Korea consist of a 1 million-member army, an air force of about 80,000 members, and a navy of about 40,000. About 500,000 people serve in the army reserve and about 40,000 in the naval reserve. Up to 6 million people are members of local militia forces. Militia members serve part-time.
The North Korean government drafts men 20 to 25 years old for military service. Members of the army must serve 5 to 8 years. The air force requires 3 to 4 years of service, and the navy requires 5 to 10 years. Women join the armed forces on a volunteer basis.

Northern Mariana Islands, Commonwealth of the, is a chain of 16 islands in the Pacific Ocean. The islands are a commonwealth of the United States. They lie about 1,000 miles (1,600 kilometres) south of Japan and about 1,500 miles (2,400 kilometres) east of the Philippines. The Northern Marianas extend about 337 miles (543 kilometres) from north to south and cover about 184 square miles (477 square kilometres) of land. They are part of a larger region in the Pacific Ocean called Micronesia. Together with Guam, the Northern Marianas make up the Mariana Islands.
About 43,000 people live in the Northern Marianas. About 90 percent of the population lives on Saipan, the capital and largest island. Most of the rest of the people live on Tinian, the second largest island; and Rota, the third largest. The largest town is Garapan, on Saipan. Government offices are in Susupe and Capitol Hill, which are also on Saipan.
In 1947, the United States began administering the Northern Marianas as part of the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands. The Northern Marianas became a self-governing commonwealth of the United States in 1986. The commonwealth government handles the commonwealth's internal affairs. The United States is responsible for defense and foreign affairs. Island residents are U.S. citizens, but they cannot vote in presidential elections.
A governor heads the commonwealth government. The governor is assisted by a lieutenant governor. The voters elect both these officials to four-year terms. A two-house legislature makes the commonwealth's laws. The Senate has 9 members and the House of Representatives has 18 members. Members are elected to two-year terms. The voters of Rota, Tinian, and Saipan also elect their own mayor. The remaining islands elect and share one mayor.
About one-third of the people of the Northern Marianas are Chamorros. Their ancestors had begun settling on the islands by about 1500 B.C. Another main group is the Carolinians, whose ancestors began to settle on Saipan around 1815 after typhoons destroyed their homes in southern Micronesia. Foreign workers account for over half the population. Filipinos make up the largest group of these workers.
At home, the Chamorros speak Chamorro and the Carolinians speak Carolinian. But English is also widely spoken in the Northern Marianas, particularly among young people. Many older people speak conversational Japanese. The majority of the people are Roman Catholics. However, many islanders also hold beliefs and observe taboos (forbidden actions) from local religions.
There are about 14 schools in the Northern Marianas, including a two-year college. The law requires children from 6 through 16 years of age to attend school. English is the main language of instruction.
Many houses on the islands are made of wood or cement block with sheet metal roofs. Modern apartment buildings and condominiums have been built on Saipan.
The Northern Marianas are formed by the peaks of a huge undersea mountain range. The range rises more than 6 miles (9.5 kilometres) off the bottom of the Mariana Trench, the deepest known spot in the world's oceans. The northern islands are covered with volcanic rock. Seven of them - Alamagan, Anatahan, Agrihan, Farallon de Pajaros, Guguan, Sarigan, and Pagan - still have active volcanoes. Limestone terraces cover volcanic rock on the southern islands. The Maug Islands, a cluster of three islands, are sometimes counted as one island. The Northern Marianas have an average year-round temperature of about 84 °F (29 °C) and an average annual rainfall of about 84 inches (213 centimetres).
The government is the major employer in the Northern Marianas. Tourism ranks as the most important economic activity. The garment industry is the only significant manufacturing activity. Imports in the Northern Marianas far outnumber exports. More than half of the work force in the Northern Marianas are foreigners. The majority of the garment workers are Chinese or Thai. Many islanders hold government jobs.
The ancestors of the present-day Chamorros had begun living on the Northern Marianas by about 1500 B.C. In A.D. 1521, Ferdinand Magellan, a Portuguese explorer in the service of Spain, discovered Rota and Guam. Spain claimed the islands in 1565. But Spain did not begin ruling them until 1668, after Spanish Jesuits established a missionary settlement on Guam.
At the end of the Spanish-American War in 1898, Spain turned Guam over to the United States. The next year, Spain sold the Northern Marianas to Germany. Germany ruled the Northern Marianas until the Japanese seized them at the beginning of World War I in 1914. After the war ended in 1918, a mandate from the League of Nations gave Japan control of the islands.
The United States gained control of the Northern Marianas in 1944, during World War II. In 1947, the United States began administering the islands as part of the United Nations Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands. In 1975, the United States agreed to make the Northern Marianas a self-governing U.S. commonwealth. The agreement took effect Nov. 3, 1986.

Northern Ireland is the smallest of the four major political divisions that make up the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. England, Scotland, and Wales are the other divisions of the United Kingdom, which is often simply called Great Britain or Britain. Belfast is Northern Ireland's largest city.
Northern Ireland occupies the northeastern corner of the island of Ireland. It takes up about a sixth of the island. The independent Republic of Ireland occupies the rest of the island. Northern Ireland is often called Ulster. Ulster was the name of a large province of Ireland until 1920, when Northern Ireland was separated from the rest of Ireland.
Religion has long divided the people of Northern Ireland into rival political, social, and cultural groups. The majority of Northern Ireland's people are Protestants, and they have traditional ties to the rest of the United Kingdom. Nearly all the rest of the inhabitants are Roman Catholics, as are most of the people in the Republic of Ireland to the south. In general, Protestants want Northern Ireland to remain in the United Kingdom, and Catholics want it to become part of the Irish Republic. The continuing dispute between the two groups has sometimes led to riots, bombings, and other outbreaks of violence and terrorism, often called the troubles.
Official Language
5,461 sq. mi. (14,144 sq. km).
Greatest distances
east-west, 111 mi. (179 km);
north-south, 85 mi. (137 km).
Coastline - 330 mi. (531 km).
Highest - Slieve Donard, 2,796 ft. (852 m) above sea level.
Lowest - The Marsh, near Downpatrick, 1.3 ft. (0.4 m) below sea level.
Estimated 1996 population - 1,655,000; density, 303 persons per sq. mi. (117 per sq. km); distribution, 70 percent urban, 30 percent rural. 1991 census - 1,578,000. Estimated 2001 population - 1,686,000.
Chief Products
Agriculture - cattle, chickens, eggs, hogs, sheep, milk, potatoes.
Manufacturing - aircraft, automobile parts, chemicals, computer chips, Irish linen and other textiles, machinery, processed food, ships.

Norway is a long, narrow country on the northwestern edge of the European continent. The northern third of Norway lies above the Arctic Circle and is called the Land of the Midnight Sun. Because this region is so far north, it has long periods every summer when the sun shines 24 hours a day. Oslo, Norway's largest city, is in the southern part of the country.
Most of the Norwegian people live near or along the sea. Winds warmed by the sea give the coast much warmer winters than other regions so far north, and snow melts quickly there. Even north of the Arctic Circle, nearly all of Norway's harbours are free of ice the year around. Inland areas are colder, and snow covers the ground much of the year. For thousands of years, the people have used skis for travel over the snow. Today, skiing is Norway's national sport. Most Norwegians learn to ski before they even start school.
Norway, along with Denmark and Sweden, is one of the Scandinavian countries. Vikings lived in all three countries about a thousand years ago. Vikings from Norway sailed west and established colonies in Iceland and Greenland. About A.D. 1000, Leif Ericson sailed from Greenland and headed what was probably the first European expedition to the mainland of America.
Since the time of the Vikings, the Norwegians have been a seafaring people. Norway's coast is famous for its many long, narrow inlets of the sea called fiords, which provide fine harbours. Rich fisheries lie off the west coast, and dried fish were an important export as early as the 1200's. Norway began developing its great shipping fleet during the 1600's. Today, Norway's fishing and shipping industries rank among the world's largest.
Norway is mostly a high, mountainous plateau covered by bare rock, and it has a relatively small amount of farmland. But the rivers that rush down from the mountains provide cheap electric power. Norway generates more hydroelectric power per person than any other country. Norwegian manufacturing is based on this cheap power. Important products of Norway include chemicals, metals, petroleum, processed foods, and wood pulp and paper.
Official Name
Kongeriket Norge (Kingdom of Norway).
149,405 sq. mi. (386,958 sq. km), including Svalbard and Jan Mayen.
Greatest distances
northeast-southwest, 1,089 mi. (1,752 km);
northwest-southeast, 267 mi. (430 km).
Coastline - 1,647 mi. (2,650 km).
Highest - Galdhoppigen, 8,100 ft. (2,469 m) above sea level.
Lowest - sea level along the coast.
Estimated 1996 population - 4,382,000; density, 29 persons per sq. mi. (11 per sq. km); distribution, 77 percent urban, 23 percent rural. 1990 census - 4,247,546. Estimated 2001 population - 4,508,000.
Chief Products
Agriculture - barley, hay, livestock, milk, oats, potatoes.
Fishing - capelin, cod, herring, mackerel.
Forestry - timber.
Manufacturing - aluminium, chemicals, processed foods, refined petroleum products, ships, wood pulp and paper.
Mining - ilmenite, iron ore, lead, molybdenite, petroleum and natural gas, pyrites, zinc.
National Anthem
"Ja, vi elsker dette landet" ("Yes, We Love This Land").
Capital city
715 miles from London
GMT +1 hour
International aircraft prefix
International dialling code
00 47
Norwegian Krone (NOK)
Vehicle nationality plates
National holidays
17 May - Constitution Day
Embassy details
British Embassy
Thomas Heftyesgate 8
0244 Oslo
Telephone (00 47) 23132700
Opening hours 0730 to 1500 in summer, 0830 to 1600 in winter (local time)
web site
National flag
Red with a blue cross outlined in white

Oman is a small country in the southeast corner of the Arabian Peninsula. Most of Oman is desert. But the land yields petroleum, which provides most of the country's income. The Gulf of Oman and the Arabian Sea border eastern Oman. They provide the country with an outlet to the world's oceans. The strategic Strait of Hormuz - through which much of the world's petroleum is shipped - lies at the northern tip of Oman. Oman is one of the hottest countries in the world. Temperatures often reach 130 °F (54.4 °C).
Oman was an extremely poor country until oil was discovered there in 1964. Most of the people still struggle to make a living. But oil exports now finance many economic improvements. Matrah is the largest city. Almost all Omanis are Muslims. About 75 percent of the Muslims practice Ibadi Islam, a strict form of Islam.
Official Language
Official Name
Saltanat Uman (Sultanate of Oman).
82,030 sq. mi. (212,457 sq. km).
Greatest distances
north-south, 500 mi. (805 km);
east-west, 400 mi. (644 km).
Coastline - about 1,060 mi. (1,700 km).
Highest - Jabal Ash Sham, 9,957 ft. (3,035 m) above sea level.
Lowest - sea level.
Estimated 1996 population - 2,239,000; density, 27 persons per sq. mi. (11 persons per sq. km); distribution, 87 percent rural, 13 percent urban. 1993 census - 2,017,591. Estimated 2001 population - 2,656,000.
Basic unit - Omani rial, or riyal.
Chief Products
Agriculture - alfalfa, bananas, coconuts, dates, limes, onions, pomegranates, tobacco, tomatoes, wheat.
Fishing industry - sardines, cod, sharks.
Mining - petroleum, natural gas, copper, chromite.
National Anthem
"Nashid as-Salaam as-Sultani" ("Sultan's National Anthem").
The flag has a vertical red stripe and three horizontal stripes of white, red, and green. The national emblem, which features crossed swords and a Khanjar (type of knife), appears at the top of the vertical stripe.

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