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International Information: P - Q

International Information: P - Q

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Pakistan is a Muslim nation in South Asia. About 97 per cent of its people practice Islam, the Muslim religion. Religion was the chief reason for the establishment of Pakistan as an independent nation.
During the 1800's and early 1900's, Great Britain ruled the region that is now Pakistan. The region formed part of India. When the British granted India independence in 1947, they divided the country according to the religion of its people. Pakistan was created out of northwestern and northeastern India. The two sections of the new nation were over 1,000 miles (1,600 kilometres) apart. The majority of the people of both regions of Pakistan were Muslims. Most of the people of the remaining territory of India were Hindus.
The two sections of Pakistan were called West Pakistan and East Pakistan. Although the people of both regions shared the same religion, many differences divided them. These differences led to civil war in 1971 and to the establishment of East Pakistan as an independent nation called Bangladesh.
Cultural differences remain a problem in Pakistan today. The population consists of a number of cultural groups, each with its own language.
Most Pakistanis are farmers or herders with little or no education. Many of them live much as their ancestors did hundreds of years ago. Traditional attitudes and customs do not have so great an influence over everyday life among Pakistan's educated people. Most of these people live in the cities.
Pakistan has towering snow-capped mountains, high plateaus, fertile plains, and sandy deserts. Most Pakistanis live in the irrigated plains region of eastern Pakistan. The greatest concentration of population is in the Punjab, a fertile plain in the northeast. Islamabad, the nation's capital, lies in this area. Much of the western part of the country is lightly settled because the area is too dry and barren for farming.
The history of the region that is now Pakistan started at least 4,500 years ago, when an advanced civilisation developed in the Indus Valley. This civilisation lasted about 800 years and then declined and disappeared. For the next several thousand years, a number of peoples invaded and settled in what became Pakistan. Arabs, Greeks, Persians, Turks, and other invaders ruled the region before it came under the control of Great Britain in the 1800's. The complex history of Pakistan helps explain the variety that exists among the country's population today.
Official Name
The Islamic Republic of Pakistan.
307,374 sq. mi. (796,095 sq. km).
Greatest distances
north-south, 935 mi. (1,505 km);
east-west, 800 mi. (1,287 km).
Coastline - 506 mi. (814 km).

Highest - K2 (in Kashmir), 28,250 ft. (8,611 m) above sea level.
Lowest - sea level.
Estimated 1996 population - 138,672,000; density, 451 persons per sq. mi. (174 persons per sq. km); distribution, 65 percent rural, 35 percent urban. 1981 census - 84,253,644. Estimated 2001 population - 158,726,000.
Chief Products
Agriculture - wheat, cotton, rice, sugar cane, milk, chickpeas.
Manufacturing - cotton textiles and clothing, food products, fertiliser, steel, cement.
Mining - natural gas, petroleum.
National Anthem
"Qaumi Tarana" ("National Anthem").
Capital city
3747 miles from London
GMT +5 hours
International aircraft prefix
International dialling code
00 92
Pakistani Rupee (PKR)
The official language of Pakistan is Urdu, but large parts of the population speak only Baluchi, Punjabi, Pushtu, or Sindhi. Such language barriers, plus other divisions among its people, have made it difficult for Pakistan to develop into a unified nation.
National holidays
23 March - Pakistan Day
Embassy details
British High Commission
Diplomatic Enclave
Ramna 5
P O Box 1122
Telephone (00 92) (51) 2206071
Opening hours 0800 to 1600 Monday to Thursday, 0800 to 1200 Friday (local time)
National flag
Green with a large white crescent and star in the centre and awhite vertical band on the hoist side

Palau is a small island nation in the western Pacific Ocean. The country is also known as Belau. Palau consists chiefly of about 200 islands in a chain that lies about 500 miles (800 kilometres) east of the Philippines. Palau is part of the Caroline Islands, which belong to a larger island group known as Micronesia.
The United States administered the Palau islands under a United Nations trusteeship called the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands from 1947 until 1994. That year, Palau became independent. About 18,000 people live in Palau. Koror, on Koror Island, is the capital.
Palau is a republic in free association with the United States. Under this arrangement, the Palauan government controls the nation's internal and foreign affairs. However, the United States is responsible for the defence of the islands.
Palau's government is divided into executive, legislative, and judicial branches. The president is elected to a four-year term. Palau has a two-house legislature. Voters elect its 14 senators and 16 delegates every four years. Judges are appointed for life by the president with the consent of the senate.
Most Palauans are descended from the people who originally settled the islands thousands of years ago. About two-thirds of Palau's people live on Koror Island. Most of them work for government agencies. Most of the rest of the islands' people live in scattered rural villages. They farm the land but grow barely enough food to make a small profit. The main foods of Palauans include seafood and taro, a plant with a starchy, edible underground stem.
Palauan and English are both official languages of Palau. Palauan children from ages 6 to 14 must attend school. About three-quarters of the people of Palau are Christians. The other one-fourth of the population follow a local religion known as Modekngei, which emphasises traditional Palauan culture and values.
Palau consists mainly of a chain of about 200 islands. The chain extends approximately 100 miles (160 kilometres) from north to south and is about 20 miles (32 kilometres) wide. It is surrounded by a coral reef and is often referred to as the Palau Islands. However, several other scattered islands are also part of Palau. Altogether, Palau has a land area of 177 square miles (459 square kilometres). Babelthuap, also spelled Babeldaob, is Palau's largest island.
The northern islands of Palau are of volcanic origin and have rich soils. Most of these islands are fertile and have many trees. The southern islands are upraised coral formations. Most of these islands are too rugged for people to live on. But they are a major tourist attraction because of their spectacular natural beauty.
Palau has a tropical climate, with daytime temperatures of about 80 °F (27 °C). The islands receive more than 150 inches (380 centimetres) of rain a year.
The Palauan government provides most jobs and a wide range of social services for the Palauan people. Most of the money for the government operations comes from the United States.
Palau imports finished consumer goods and much of its food. Its chief export is tuna, which is shipped mainly to Japan. Coconut is the chief cash crop. Tourism is becoming an important industry.
Archaeological evidence suggests that Palau was one of the first island groups in Micronesia to be settled. The ancestors of the islanders may have arrived from Southeast Asia at least 4,000 years ago.
Spain ruled Palau from 1885 to 1898, when Germany gained control. After Germany's defeat in World War I (1914-1918), Japan administered the islands. Palau became Japan's headquarters for Micronesia, and the islanders were soon outnumbered by Japanese settlers.
After World War II ended in 1945, the Japanese settlers were sent back to Japan. In 1947, the United States began administering the islands as part of the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands. Palau became a self-governing republic in free association with the United States in October 1994. In December 1994, it became a member of the United Nations.

Palestine a small, historic land at the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea, is one of the world's most historic places. Two great religions - Judaism and Christianity - originated in Palestine. It is the Holy Land, the site of many events described in the Bible. Muslims, the followers of the Islamic religion, also consider Palestine a sacred place.
Palestine's location between Egypt and southwest Asia has made it a centre of conflict for thousands of years. Many peoples have invaded the region, and there has never been an independent state of Palestine. In the 400 years before World War I (1914-1918), Palestine was part of the Ottoman Empire. After the war, Palestine came under British control. Both the Arab and Jewish inhabitants of Palestine fought for control of the territory. Following a war in 1948 and 1949 between Arabs and Jews, Palestine was divided among Israel, Jordan, and Egypt. Many of Palestine's residents became refugees. Conflicts over Palestine continued between Arabs and Jews after the war.
Amorites, Canaanites, and other Semitic peoples entered the area about 2000 B.C. The area became known as the Land of Canaan. Sometime between about 1800 and 1500 B.C., a Semitic people called Hebrews left Mesopotamia and settled in Canaan, where they became known as Israelites. Some of these Israelites later went to Egypt. In the 1200's B.C., Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt, and they returned to Canaan. The Israelites practiced a religion centred on the belief in one God. Other peoples in Canaan worshiped many gods.
For about 200 years, the Israelites fought the other peoples of Canaan and the neighbouring areas. One of their strongest enemies, the Philistines, controlled the southwestern coast of Canaan - called Philistia.
Until about 1029 B.C., the Israelites were loosely organised into 12 tribes. The constant warfare with neighbouring peoples led the Israelites to choose a king, Saul, as their leader. Saul's successor, David, unified the nation to form the Kingdom of Israel, about 1000 B.C. David established his capital in Jerusalem. His son, Solomon, succeeded him as king and built the first Temple for the worship of God. Israel remained united until Solomon's death about 922 B.C. The northern tribes of Israel then split away from the tribes in the south. The northern state continued to be called Israel. The southern state, called Judah, kept Jerusalem as its capital. The word Jew, which came to be used for all Israelites, comes from the name Judah.
During the 700's B.C., the Assyrians, a people who lived in what is now Iraq, extended their rule westward to the Mediterranean Sea. They conquered Israel in 722 or 721 B.C. After about 100 years, the Babylonians began to take over the Assyrian Empire. They conquered Judah in 587 or 586 B.C. and destroyed Solomon's Temple in Jerusalem. They enslaved many Jews and forced them to live in exile in Babylonia. About 50 years later, the Persian king Cyrus conquered Babylonia. Cyrus allowed a group of Jews from Babylonia to rebuild and settle in Jerusalem.
The Persians ruled most of the Middle East, including Palestine, from about 530 to 331 B.C. Alexander the Great then conquered the Persian Empire. After Alexander's death in 323 B.C., his generals divided his empire. One of these generals, Seleucus, founded a dynasty (series of rulers) that gained control of much of Palestine about 200 B.C. At first, the new rulers, called Seleucids, allowed the practice of Judaism. But later, one of the kings, Antiochus IV, tried to prohibit it. In 167 B.C., the Jews revolted under the leadership of the Maccabeans and drove the Seleucids out of Palestine. The Jews reestablished an independent kingdom called Judah.
In 63 B.C., Roman troops invaded Judah, and it came under Roman control. The Romans called the area Judea. Jesus Christ was born in Bethlehem in the early years of Roman rule. Roman rulers put down Jewish revolts in A.D. 66 and A.D. 132. In A.D. 135, the Romans drove the Jews out of Jerusalem. The Romans named the area Palaestina, for Philistia, at about this time. The name Palaestina became Palestine in English.
Most of the Jews fled from Palestine. But Jewish communities continued to exist in Galilee, the northernmost part of Palestine. Palestine was governed by the Roman Empire until the A.D. 300's and then by the Byzantine Empire. In time, Christianity spread to most of Palestine.
During the A.D. 600's, Muslim Arab armies moved north from Arabia to conquer most of the Middle East, including Palestine. Muslim powers controlled the region until the early 1900's. The rulers allowed Christians and Jews to keep their religions. However, most of the local population gradually accepted Islam and the Arab-Islamic culture of their rulers.
In the 1000's, the Seljuks, a Turkish people, began to take over Palestine. They gained control of Jerusalem in 1071. Seljuk rule of Palestine lasted less than 30 years. Christian crusaders from Europe wanted to regain the land where their religion began. The Crusades started in 1096. The Christians captured Jerusalem in 1099. They held the city until 1187, when the Muslim ruler Saladin attacked Palestine and took control of Jerusalem.
In the mid-1200's, Mamelukes based in Egypt established an empire that in time included Palestine. Arab Muslims made up most of Palestine's population. Beginning in the late 1300's, Jews from Spain and other Mediterranean lands settled in Jerusalem and other parts of Palestine. The Ottoman Empire defeated the Mamelukes in 1517, and Palestine became part of the Ottoman Empire. The Jewish population slowly increased, and by 1880, about 24,000 Jews were living in Palestine.
Beginning in the late 1800's, oppression of Jews in Eastern Europe set off a mass emigration of Jewish refugees. Some Jews formed a movement called Zionism, which sought to make Palestine an independent Jewish nation. The Zionists established farm colonies in Palestine. At the same time, Palestine's Arab population grew rapidly. By 1914, the total population of Palestine stood at 700,000. About 615,000 people were Arabs, and 85,000 were Jews.
During World War I (1914-1918), the Ottoman Empire joined Germany and Austria-Hungary against the Allies. An Ottoman military government ruled Palestine. Britain and some of the European Allies planned to divide the Ottoman Empire among themselves after the war. The Sykes-Picot Agreement of 1916 called for part of Palestine to be placed under a joint Allied government. Britain offered to back Arab demands for postwar independence from the Ottomans in return for Arab support for the Allies. In 1916, some Arabs revolted against the Ottomans in the belief that Britain would help establish Arab independence in the Middle East. The Arabs later claimed that Palestine was included in the area promised to them, but the British denied this.
In 1917, in an attempt to gain Jewish support for its war effort, Britain issued the Balfour Declaration. The declaration stated Britain's support for the creation of a Jewish national home in Palestine, without violating the civil and religious rights of the existing non-Jewish communities.
After the war, the League of Nations divided much of the Ottoman Empire into mandated territories. In 1920, Britain received a provisional mandate over Palestine, which would extend west and east of the River Jordan. The British were to help the Jews build a national home and promote the creation of self-governing institutions. In 1922, the League declared that the boundary of Palestine would be limited to the area west of the river. The area east of the river, called Transjordan (now Jordan), was made a separate British mandate. The two mandates took effect in 1923.
The terms of the Palestine mandate were not clear, and various parties interpreted it differently. Many Zionists believed that Britain did not do enough to promote a Jewish national home. They especially opposed restrictions set by the British on Jewish immigration and land purchases. The British hoped to establish self-governing institutions, as required by the mandate. But their proposals for such institutions were unacceptable to the Arabs, and so none were created.
The Arabs opposed the idea of a Jewish national home. They feared that the British were handing Palestine over to the Zionists by allowing too many Jews to immigrate to Palestine. During this period, a Palestinian Arab national movement first appeared. On several occasions, riots and demonstrations were mounted by the Arabs to protest British policies and Zionist activities.
In the early 1930's, over 100,000 Jewish refugees came to Palestine from Nazi Germany and Poland. This development alarmed the Palestinian Arabs. The Arabs organised a general uprising that almost paralysed Palestine during the late 1930's. In 1939, the British began to drastically limit Jewish immigration and land purchases for the next five years. Any Jewish immigration after that would depend on Arab approval.
During World War II (1939-1945), many Palestinian Arabs and Jews joined the Allied forces. After the war, the Zionists used force to stop Britain from limiting Jewish immigration into Palestine. The Zionists wanted the British to allow immigration of several hundred thousand Jewish survivors of the Holocaust, the mass murder of European Jews by the Nazis.
The United Nations Special Commission on Palestine recommended that Palestine be divided into an Arab state and a Jewish state. The commission called for Jerusalem to be put under international control. The UN General Assembly adopted this plan on Nov. 29, 1947. The Jews accepted the UN decision, but the Arabs rejected it. Fighting broke out immediately.
On May 14, 1948, the Jews proclaimed the independent State of Israel, and the British withdrew from Palestine. The next day, neighbouring Arab nations attacked Israel. When the fighting ended in 1949, Israel held territories beyond the boundaries set by the UN plan. The rest of the area assigned to the Arab state was occupied by Egypt and Jordan. Egypt held the Gaza Strip and Jordan held the West Bank. About 700,000 Arabs fled or were driven out of Israel and became refugees in neighbouring Arab countries.
The continuing conflict and peace efforts. The UN arranged a series of cease-fires between the Arabs and the Jews in 1948 and 1949. Full-scale wars broke out again in 1956 and 1967. By the time the UN cease-fire ended the 1967 war, Israel had occupied the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. Israel also held Egypt's Sinai Peninsula and Syria's Golan Heights. In October 1973, Egypt and Syria launched a war against Israel. Cease-fires ended most of the fighting within a month.
The 1967 war brought about a million Palestinian Arabs under Israeli rule. After the war, the fate of the Palestinians came to play a large role in the Arab-Israeli struggle. In time, the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) became recognised by all the Arab states as the representative of the Palestinian people. The PLO pledged to liberate Palestine. Israel strongly opposed the PLO because of its terrorist acts against Jews.
In 1978, Egypt and Israel signed the Camp David Accords, an agreement designed to settle their disputes. Israel withdrew from the Sinai Peninsula in 1982. The agreement included provisions for a five-year period of self-government for the residents of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. This period was to be followed by a decision about the future status of these territories. But no arrangement for such self-government was made following the agreement.
Beginning in 1987, periods of violence occurred in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank as protests by Arabs swept through the regions. These actions were called the intifada, which means uprising in Arabic. Israeli troops killed a number of protesters. In 1993, 1995, and 1997, Israel and the PLO signed agreements that led to the withdrawal of Israeli troops from the Gaza Strip and most cities and towns of the West Bank. As the Israelis withdrew, Palestinians took control of these areas. In January 1996, Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and the Palestinian-controlled parts of the West Bank elected a legislature and a president to make laws and administer these areas.

Panama is a small country in Central America that has worldwide importance as a transportation center. It covers the Isthmus of Panama, a narrow strip of land that separates the Atlantic and Pacific oceans near the middle of the Western Hemisphere. The Panama Canal cuts through the isthmus, connecting the two oceans. Thousands of ships use the canal each year to pass from one ocean to the other. By doing so, they avoid a long trip around the southern tip of South America. Thus, Panama plays a key role in the world's transportation system. The country is sometimes called the Crossroads of the World because of this role.
Panama lies at the southern end of North America. It and the land north of it to Mexico's southern border make up the part of the North American continent called Central America. Panama is a narrow country that curves from west to east. The Atlantic Ocean lies to the north, the Pacific Ocean to the south, Colombia to the east, and Costa Rica to the west.
Lowlands cover the part of Panama near the Atlantic and Pacific coasts. The Atlantic coast is sometimes referred to as the Caribbean coast because it borders the part of the Atlantic Ocean that is called the Caribbean Sea. Mountains cover much of Panama's interior, and there are jungles and swamps in the east. Panama City is the country's largest city.
Mestizos and mulattoes make up more than two-thirds of Panama's population.
Indians were the first inhabitants of what is now Panama. Spaniards conquered the Indians during the 1500's and ruled Panama for about 300 years. In 1821, Panama broke away from Spain and became a province of the nation of Colombia. In 1903, it rebelled against Colombia and became an independent nation.
The United States played a major role in Panama's history. It built the Panama Canal, which was completed in 1914. Many U.S. civilians and soldiers then moved to Panama to guard, operate, and maintain the canal. They lived in a special area bordering the canal called the Panama Canal Zone. The United States took control of the canal and the zone in exchange for payments to Panama. In 1977, Panama and the United States signed a treaty that resulted in the transfer of the Canal Zone to Panama in 1979. The treaty also provided for the transfer of the canal to Panama on Dec. 31, 1999.
Panama City.
Official Language
Official Name
Republica de Panama (Republic of Panama).
30,193 sq. mi. (78,200 sq. km).
Greatest distances
east-west, 410 mi. (660 km);
north-south, 130 mi. (209 km).
Coastline - Atlantic Ocean, 397 mi. (639 km); Pacific Ocean, 746 mi. (1,201 km).
Highest - Volcan Baru, 11,401 ft. (3,475 m) above sea level.
Lowest - sea level along the coasts.
Estimated 1996 population - 2,704,000; density, 90 persons per sq. mi. (35 per sq. km); distribution, 55 percent urban, 45 percent rural. 1990 census - 2,329,329. Estimated 2001 population - 2,936,000.
Chief Products
Agriculture - bananas, rice, sugar cane, beef cattle, milk, coffee, corn, chickens and eggs, beans.
Manufacturing - beverages, cement, petroleum products, processed foods.
Fishing - shrimp, anchovetta.
National Anthem
"Himno Nacional de la Republica de Panama" ("National Hymn of the Republic of Panama").
Basic unit - balboa.

Papua New Guinea is an independent nation in the Pacific Ocean, north of Australia. It consists of part of the island of New Guinea plus a chain of tropical islands that extend more than 1,000 miles (1,600 kilometres).
The eastern half of the island of New Guinea makes up most of the area of Papua New Guinea. The rest of the country consists of the islands of the Bismarck Archipelago; Bougainville and Buka in the Solomon Islands chain; the D'Entrecasteaux Islands; the Louisiade Archipelago; the Trobriand Islands; and Woodlark Island. Port Moresby, on New Guinea, is Papua New Guinea's largest city.
European explorers first visited various islands of Papua New Guinea during the early 1500's. The islands came under Australian rule in the early 1900's and gained independence in 1975.
Port Moresby.
Total Land Area
178,704 sq. mi. (462,840 sq. km).
Greatest distances between islands
north-south, 730 mi. (1,174 km);
east-west, 1,040 mi. (1,674 km).
Highest - Mount Wilhelm, 14,793 ft. (4,509 m) above sea level.
Lowest - sea level.
Estimated 1996 population - 4,443,000; density, 25 persons per sq. mi. (10 per sq. km); distribution, 82 percent rural, 18 percent urban. 1980 census - 3,010,727; Estimated 2001 population - 4,974,000.
Basic unit - kina.
Chief Products
Agriculture - cocoa, coconuts, coffee, rubber, tea, timber.
Mining - copper, gold.
The flag is divided diagonally from upper left to lower right. A golden bird of paradise is in the upper section, which is red. Five stars representing the Southern Cross appear in the lower section, which is black.

Paraguay is a small landlocked country near the centre of South America. It is surrounded by Argentina, Bolivia, and Brazil. The Paraguay River flows through Paraguay from north to south and divides the country into two sharply different land regions. West of the river lies the Chaco, a flat, thinly settled area of coarse grasses, scrub forests, and salt marshes. Eastern Paraguay, on the other hand, has rolling hills, fertile soil, and thick forests.
The great majority of the Paraguayan people live in the eastern part of the country. About a fifth of them live in or near Asuncion, the largest city. Almost all Paraguayans are of mixed Guarani Indian and Spanish ancestry. The Guarani Indians were the original inhabitants of what is now Paraguay. They intermarried with Spanish settlers, who began to arrive in the 1500's. Most Paraguayans speak both Guarani and Spanish. Nearly all the people are Roman Catholics.
Paraguay is a poor country whose economy is based chiefly on agriculture and forestry. About half the people of Paraguay live in rural areas, and most of them make a bare living farming. The country's most valuable resources are fertile soil, dense forests, and vast hydroelectric power potential. These resources could provide for strong economic growth in Paraguay if they were more developed.
Spain ruled Paraguay until 1811, when Paraguay declared its independence. Over the years, the country has suffered from terrible wars with neighbouring nations and from struggles for power among rival political groups.
Official Languages
Spanish and Guarani.
Official Name
Republica del Paraguay (Republic of Paraguay).Area: 157,048 sq. mi. (406,752 sq. km).
Greatest distances
north-south, 575 mi. (925 km);
east-west, 410 mi. (660 km).
Highest - 2,231 ft. (680 m) above sea level near Villarrica.
Lowest - 180 ft. (55 m), at the meeting point of the Paraguay and Parana rivers.
Estimated 1996 population - 4,576,000; density, 29 persons per sq. mi. (11 per sq. km); distribution, 51 percent rural, 49 percent urban. 1992 census - 4,123,550. Estimated 2001 population - 5,164,000.
Chief Products
Agriculture and forestry - cassava, corn, cotton, livestock, rice, soybeans, sugar cane, timber trees, tobacco, wool.
Manufacturing - cement, leather goods, processed foods and beverages, textiles, wood products.
National Anthem
"Paraguayos, republica o muerte!" ("Paraguayans, Republic or Death!" ).
Basic unit - guarani.

Peru is the third largest country in South America. Only Brazil and Argentina cover a greater area. Peru is a land of enormous contrasts in landscape and climate. The country lies in western South America along the Pacific Ocean. The long, narrow coast consists of a desert even drier than the Sahara. Most of Peru's large cities lie in this region, including Lima, the largest city. The towering, snow-capped Andes Mountains rise east of the coast and extend north and south down the entire length of the country. This region is famous for its grass-covered plateaus, crystal-clear air, and sparkling sunshine. Thick rain forests and jungles cover most of the hot, humid region east of the Andes.
More Indians live in Peru than in any other country in South America. The Indians make up nearly half of the country's people and about a fifth of the total Indian population of North and South America. The rest of Peru's population consists mainly of people of mixed Indian and white ancestry. Whites make up only a small part of the country's population.
Peru is one of the world's leading producers of copper, lead, silver, and zinc. It also ranks among the world's leading fishing countries. But most of Peru's people are poor. Many of them make a bare living farming. Other Peruvians work for low wages in the cities or are unemployed.
The ancestors of Peru's Indians include the famous Inca Indians, who built a great empire in Peru from the 1200's to the 1500's. The first white people reached the country in the 1520's, led by the Spanish adventurer Francisco Pizarro. They conquered the Inca in the 1530's and made Peru a Spanish colony. Peru declared its independence from Spain in 1821.
Official Name
Republica del Peru (Republic of Peru).
496,225 sq. mi. (1,285,216 sq. km).
Greatest distances
north-south, 1,225 mi. (1,971 km);
east-west, 875 mi. (1,408 km).
Coastline - 1,448 mi. (2,330 km).
Highest - Huascaran, 22,205 ft. (6,768 m) above sea level.
Lowest - sea level along the coast.
Estimated 1996 population - 24,314,000; density, 49 persons per sq. mi. (19 per sq. km); distribution, 72 percent urban, 28 percent rural. 1981 census - 17,702,400. Estimated 2001 population - 26,741,000.
Basic unit - sol.
Chief Products
Agriculture - bananas, coffee, cotton, potatoes, sugar cane.
Fishing - anchovies, sardines.
Manufacturing - fish meal, metals, sugar, textiles.
Mining - copper, iron ore, lead, petroleum, silver, zinc.
Capital city
6232 miles from London
GMT -5 hours
International aircraft prefix
International dialling code
00 51
Inti (PEI)
Spanish and Quechua
National holidays
28 July - Independence Day
Embassy details
British Embassy
Edificio el Pacifico Washington
Natalio Sanchez 125, Piso 12
Plaza Washington
Avenida Arequipa
Telephone (00 51) (1) 4334738
Opening hours 0800 to 1615 Monday to Thursday, 0800 to 1335 Friday (local time)
National flag
3 equal, vertical bands of red, white,and red with a coat of arms centred in the white band

Philippines is an island country in the southwest Pacific Ocean. Its official name is Republic of the Philippines. The Philippines consists of more than 7,000 islands. The 11 largest islands make up more than 95 percent of the country's area. Less than half the islands have names, and only about 900 of them are inhabited. Manila is the nation's largest city and busiest port.
The people of the Philippines are called Filipinos. Their ancestors were migrants from Indonesia and Malaysia. Groups of these dark-haired, dark-skinned people formed small communities throughout the islands, and each group developed its own culture. As a result, the Philippines has a wide variety of languages, customs, and ways of life.
Spanish explorers colonised the Philippines in the 1500's. They named the islands after King Philip II of Spain.
The Spaniards converted most of the Filipinos to Christianity, but some tribes kept their own religion. Today, the Philippines has more Christians than does any other nation of Asia.
In 1898, Spain gave the Philippines to the United States as part of the treaty that ended the Spanish-American War. The United States ruled the islands until the Philippines became a self-governing commonwealth in 1935. From 1942 to 1944, during World War II, Japanese forces controlled the islands. The United States regained control of the Philippines in 1945. The United States granted the Philippines independence on July 4, 1946. The new nation adopted a Constitution and economic system that were similar to those of the United States.
Official Languages
Filipino and English.
Official Name
Republic of the Philippines.
115,831 sq. mi. (300,000 sq. km).
Greatest distances
north-south, 1,152 mi. (1,854 km);
east-west, 688 mi. (1,107 km).
Coastline - 10,900 mi. (17,500 km).
Highest - Mount Apo, 9,692 ft. (2,954 m) above sea level.
Lowest - sea level.
Estimated 1996 population - 70,559,000; density, 609 persons per sq. mi. (235 per sq. km); distribution, 54 percent rural, 46 percent urban. 1990 census - 60,559,116. Estimated 2001 population - 77,385,000.
Chief Products
Agriculture - bananas, cassava, coconuts, corn, hogs, pineapples, rice, sugar cane, sweet potatoes.
Forestry - ebony, kapok, Philippine mahogany.
Fishing industry - milkfish, mother-of-pearl, scad, shrimp, sponges, tuna.
Mining - chromite, copper, gold, nickel.
Manufacturing - cement, chemicals, clothing, electronic equipment, foods and beverages, petroleum products, textiles, wood products.
Basic unit - peso.

Pitcairn Island is a small, isolated island in the South Pacific Ocean. It lies just south of the Tropic of Capricorn and about 5,000 miles (8,000 kilometres) east of Australia. Pitcairn is famous as the home of the mutineers of the British naval ship Bounty.
Pitcairn covers only about 2 square miles (5 square kilometres). The island rises sharply from the sea to an elevation of about 820 feet (250 metres). The interior is rugged, but it has fertile soil. The climate is mild. Average temperatures range from 75 °F (24 °C) in February to 66 °F (19 °C) in August. Rainfall averages 80 inches (200 centimetres) yearly.
Pitcairn is the main island of a British dependency called the Pitcairn Islands Group. The other islands, all uninhabited, are Ducie, Henderson, and Oeno. The British high commissioner to New Zealand heads the dependency's government. A council composed of Pitcairn residents directs local affairs.
About 60 people live on Pitcairn. Most of them are descendants of the Bounty mutineers and their Polynesian wives. Adamstown is the island's only settlement. Most of the people farm and fish for a living. The main crops are bananas, citrus fruits, coconuts, pumpkins, taro, watermelons, and yams. The people also sell hand-carved wooden figures to passengers of ships that stop at the island. The government gets much of its revenue by selling postage stamps that bear the words "Pitcairn Islands" to collectors.
Pitcairn was inhabited in prehistoric times, probably by Polynesians. However, no one was living there in 1767, when the English navigator Philip Carteret and his crew became the first Europeans to reach it. Carteret named the island after Robert Pitcairn, the crew member who first sighted the island.
In 1789, mutineers led by Fletcher Christian took control of the Bounty from Captain William Bligh in the South Pacific. Bligh and 18 nonmutineers were cast adrift in a small boat. In 1790, nine of the mutineers settled on Pitcairn. These British sailors brought 19 Polynesians with them - 6 men, 12 women, and a young girl. Disputes over women eventually led to fighting among the men. By 1808, when an American ship discovered the mutineers' hideout, all the men except the mutineer John Adams were dead. But the mutineers had left 25 children. In 1856, many of Pitcairn's people moved to Norfolk Island.

Poland is a large central European nation that borders on the Baltic Sea. Warsaw is Poland's largest city.
Poland is named for the Polane, who were a Slavic tribe that lived more than a thousand years ago in what is now Poland. The name Polane comes from a Slavic word that means plain or field. Flat plains and gently rolling hills cover most of the country. Rugged mountains form part of the southern boundary, and thousands of small, scenic lakes dot the northern regions.
The people of Poland have a rich heritage that includes many folk traditions and a strong loyalty to the Roman Catholic Church. But the 1900's brought many changes to Poland, and some old customs disappeared from everyday life. Before World War II (1939-1945), Poland's economy depended heavily on agriculture. Today, agriculture remains an important economic activity. However, Poland has also developed into a major industrial nation, and most of its people live in cities and towns.
Poland has had a long and varied history. At one time, the people of Poland ruled an empire that stretched across most of central Europe. However, foreign powers conquered and divided Poland and brought an end to its existence as a separate nation. After more than a hundred years of foreign rule, Poland became an independent republic in 1918. Poland became a Communist country during the mid-1940's. Its Communist Party controlled the Polish government and placed many restrictions on the freedom of the Polish people. Non-Communists came to power in 1989, and restrictions on the freedom of the Polish people were lifted.
Official Name
Rzeczypospolita Polska (Republic of Poland).
124,808 sq. mi. (323,250 sq. km).
Greatest distances
east-west, 430 mi. (692 km);
north-south, 395 mi. (636 km).
Coastline - 277 mi. (446 km).
Highest - Rysy peak, 8,199 ft. (2,499 m) above sea level.
Lowest - sea level.
Estimated 1996 population - 38,891,000; density, 312 persons per sq. mi. (120 per sq. km); distribution, 64 percent urban, 36 percent rural. 1988 census - 37,878,641. Estimated 2001 population - 41,444,000.
Chief Products
Agriculture - barley, hogs, potatoes, rye, sugar beets, wheat.
Manufacturing - chemicals, food products, iron and steel, machinery, ships, textiles.
Mining - coal, copper, silver, sulphur.
National Anthem
"Jeszcze Polska nie Zginela" ("Poland Has Not Yet Perished"). Capital city
897 miles from London
GMT +1 hour
International aircraft prefix
International dialling code
00 48
New Zloty (PLN)
Vehicle nationality plates
National holidays
3 May - Constitution Day
November 11 - Independence Day
Embassy details
British Embassy
Aleje Roz No 1
00-556 Warsaw
Telephone (00 48) (22) 6281001
Opening hours 0730 to 1530 (local time)
National flag
2 equal horizontal bands of white and red

Portugal is the westernmost country of continental Europe. The small country lies on the Iberian Peninsula. Spain - Portugal's neighbour to the east and north - covers most of the peninsula. Western and southern Portugal face the Atlantic Ocean. Lisbon is Portugal's largest city.
Most Portuguese live in rural villages. The villagers include skilled people who brave the rugged Atlantic waters to fish in small boats and farmers who grow grapes that are used to make fine wine. Fish and wine from Portugal are enjoyed by people in many parts of the world.
During the 1400's and 1500's, daring Portuguese explorers launched the great age of European exploration. Bartolomeu Dias commanded the first European voyage around the Cape of Good Hope at the southern tip of Africa. Vasco da Gama sailed around the cape and discovered a sea route to Asia. Pedro Alvares Cabral sailed to what is now Brazil. These expeditions and other voyages led to the establishment of a vast Portuguese empire. This empire included colonies in Africa, Asia, and South America.
Portugal's power and influence began to weaken in the late 1500's. But the country held on to much of its empire for more than 400 years. In the 1960's and 1970's, however, all but three of its remaining overseas territories gained independence. These territories are the Azores and the Madeiras, Portuguese islands in the North Atlantic Ocean; and Macao, a tiny Portuguese territory that is located on the southern coast of China. In 1987, Portugal agreed to transfer control of Macao to China in 1999.
The 1970's brought about a major political change within Portugal. Dictators had ruled the country from 1926 to 1974. During this period, personal freedom was limited and opposition to the Portuguese government was crushed. In 1974, a group of young military officers staged a revolution and overthrew the country's dictatorship. Portugal adopted a democratic system of government in 1976.
Official Name
Republica Portuguesa (Portuguese Republic).
34,340 sq. mi. (88,941 sq. km), not including the Azores or the Madeira Islands.
Greatest distances
north-south, 350 mi. (563 km);
east-west, 125 mi. (201 km).
Coastline - 458 mi. (737 km).
Highest - Estrela, in Serra da Estrela, 6,539 ft. (1,993 m).
Lowest - sea level.
Estimated 1996 population - 9,894,000; density, 277 persons per sq. mi. (107 per sq. km); distribution, 64 percent rural, 36 percent urban. 1991 census - 9,830,779. Estimated 2001 population - 9,945,000. Population figures include the Azores and Madeira island groups.
Chief Products
Agriculture - grapes, tomatoes, potatoes, hogs, chickens, milk, beef cattle, corn.
Fishing - sardines, tuna.
Manufacturing - textiles, food products, paper products, electrical machinery, cork products, ceramics, shoes, cement, fertiliser.
National Anthem
"A Portuguesa" ("The Portuguese").
Capital city
998 miles from London
GMT +0.00
International aircraft prefix
International dialling code
00 351
Vehicle nationality plates
National holidays
10 June - Day of Portugal
Embassy details
British Embassy
Rua de Sao Bernardo 33
1249-082 Lisboa
Telephone (00 351) (21) 3924000
Opening hours 0900 to 1300/1430 to 1730 (local time)
web site
National flag
2 vertical bands of green and red with the Portuguese coat of arms centred on the dividing line

Puerto Rico is a beautiful, fertile island about 1,000 miles (1,600 kilometres) southeast of Florida. It forms part of the boundary between the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. The pleasant climate, sandy beaches, and resort hotels attract a large number of tourists from the United States mainland. Puerto Rico is a commonwealth of the United States. Its official name is Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.
Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens, and can move to the mainland without immigration restrictions. But when living on the island, they cannot vote in presidential elections and do not pay federal income taxes. The commonwealth receives assistance and protection from the U.S. government. But the Puerto Rican government has authority in many local matters.
Puerto Rico is the only part of what is now the United States where Christopher Columbus landed. Columbus reached the island in 1493 and claimed it for Spain. He named the island San Juan Bautista (St. John the Baptist). Spain surrendered the island to the United States in 1898 at the end of the Spanish-American War.
The name Puerto Rico means rich port in Spanish. In early colonial days, it was the name for San Juan, Puerto Rico's largest city. The name gradually came to be used for the entire island.
Puerto Rico's Spanish heritage is reflected in the language and customs of its people. Spanish is the main language and one of the two official languages of Puerto Rico. Many Puerto Ricans also speak English, the other official language. The people celebrate religious holidays with colourful festivals. Churches and forts from Spanish colonial days still stand on the island.
Puerto Rico also reflects its ties with the United States. The island's large cities have freeways, housing projects, and shopping centres like those in many cities on the U.S. mainland.
San Juan.
Congress - Resident commissioner, who votes only in committees.
Commonwealth legislature - senators, 27; representatives, 53.
Local government - 78 municipalities.
3,515 sq. mi. (9,103 sq. km), including Culebra, Mona, and Vieques islands and 56 sq. mi. (145 sq. km) of inland water.
Greatest distances
east-west, 111 mi. (179 km);
north-south, 39 mi. (63 km).
Coastline - 311 mi. (501 km).
Highest - Cerro de Punta, 4,389 ft. (1,338 m) above sea level.
Lowest - sea level along the coast.
1990 census - 3,522,037; density, 1,004 persons per sq. mi. (387 per sq. km); distribution, 67 per cent urban, 33 per cent rural. 1980 census - 3,196,520.
Chief Products
Agriculture - milk, poultry and eggs, beef cattle, sugar cane, coffee.
Fishing industry - lobsters.
Manufacturing - medicines, electrical machinery and equipment, processed foods, scientific instruments, nonelectrical machinery, clothing.
Became a Commonwealth: July 25, 1952.
Commonwealth Abbreviations:
P.R. (traditional); PR (postal).
Commonwealth Motto
Joannes est nomen ejus (John Is His Name).
Commonwealth Anthem
"La Borinquena." Music by Felix Astol y Artes.

Qatar is a small Arab country in southwestern Asia. It occupies a peninsula that juts from eastern Arabia into the Persian Gulf. Doha is Qatar's largest city.
More than two-thirds of Qatar's people were born in other countries. The native-born are called Qataris. Until the 1940's, most Qataris tended camel herds, fished, or dived for pearls for a living. Today, most work in cities or oil fields.
Qatar's economy depends largely on oil. Since the 1950's, the government has earned much income from oil exports and used it to develop Qatar. Qatar ranks among the richest nations in terms of average income per person. The government provides free education. It also provides free health care and housing for the poor.
Qatar became a protectorate of Britain in 1916. It gained full independence in 1971.
Official Language
Official Name
The State of Qatar.
4,247 sq. mi. (11,000 sq. km).
Greatest distances
north-south, 115 mi. (185 km);
east-west, 55 mi. (89 km).
Coastline - 235 mi. (378 km).
Estimated 1996 population - 500,000; density, 118 persons per square mile (45 per sq. km); distribution, 91 percent urban, 9 percent rural. 1986 census - 369,079. Estimated 2001 population - 551,000.
Basic unit - Qatar riyal.
Chief Products
Petroleum and petroleum products.
The left third is white with a vertical series of points on the right side. The right two-thirds is maroon.

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