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International Information: S

International Information: S

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SAMI


SAMOA
Samoa is a group of islands in the South Pacific Ocean. This group of islands was once called the Navigators Islands because of the fine canoes built by the Samoans. Samoa covers 1,173 square miles (3,039 square kilometres) and has a population of about 193,000. Almost all of the people are Polynesians.
The Samoan island chain is divided into two political units. The eastern islands of the chain, which include Tutuila and several smaller islands, are part of American Samoa, a possession of the United States. The United States acquired the islands of American Samoa in stages between 1900 and 1925. The western islands of the chain - which consist of Savai'i, Upolu, and several smaller islands - make up Western Samoa. Western Samoa has been an independent nation since 1962.
Tutuila has the only good harbour in the islands. The United States had a naval base there until 1951.
Nearly all the Samoan islands are volcanic formations, and coral reefs surround most of them. Rich forests and flatlands slope gently toward the sea. The climate is hot and rainy.


SAN MARINO
San Marino is a small European country that is surrounded by Italy. It lies in the Apennine Mountains of northeastern Italy. Much of it - including its largest city - stands on Mount Titano. San Marino is one of the smallest countries in the world. It covers only 24 square miles (61 square kilometres).
San Marino is the oldest republic in the world. The country has been independent since the A.D. 300's. Its official name is La Serenissima Repubblica di San Marino (The Most Serene Republic of San Marino).
San Marino is a popular tourist centre. Visitors enjoy the country's spectacular views, fortress walls, cakes and wine, and colourful festivals. San Marino is also known for its beautiful postage stamps.
Capital
San Marino.
Official Language
Italian.
Area
24 sq. mi. (61 sq. km).
Elevation
Highest - Mt. Titano, 2,478 ft. (755 m).
Lowest - Ausa River at northern border, 164 ft. (50 m) above sea level.
Population
Estimated 1996 population - 23,000; density, 958 persons per sq. mi. (377 per sq. km); distribution, 90 percent urban, 10 percent rural. 1976 census - 19,149. Estimated 2001 population - 23,000.
Money
Basic unit - Italian lira.
Chief Products
Barley, fruits and vegetables, wine, wheat, building stone, ceramics, leather goods, textiles, tiles, varnish.
Flag
The flag has a blue and a white horizontal stripe. The state flag, used by the government, has a coat of arms in the centre. The national flag, used by the people, does not have a coat of arms.


SAO TOME PRINCIPE
Sao Tome and Principe is an African country that consists of two main islands and several tiny islands. The two main islands - Sao Tome Island and Principe Island - give the country its name. The islands lie in the Gulf of Guinea, about 180 miles (290 kilometres) west of Libreville, Gabon, on the African mainland.
Sao Tome Island is much larger than Principe Island. It accounts for about 85 percent of the country's area and has about 95 percent of its people. Most of the people of Sao Tome and Principe live in rural areas and work on farms. The city of Sao Tome, on Sao Tome Island, is the nation's largest city. The city serves as a trading and shipping centre for the country's farm products.
Sao Tome and Principe became an independent nation in 1975. It had been ruled by Portugal for most of the period since the late 1400's. During the 1500's, Sao Tome Island became a centre of the African slave trade.
Capital
Sao Tome (city).
Total Land Area
372 sq. mi. (964 sq. km).
Coastline - 129 mi. (208 km).
Elevation
Highest - Pico de Sao Tome, 6,640 ft. (2,024 m).
Lowest - sea level.
Population
Estimated 1996 population - 136,000; density, 372 persons per sq. mi. (141 per sq. km); distribution, 59 percent rural, 41 percent urban. 1981 census - 96,611. Estimated 2001 population - 149,000.
Money
Basic unit - dobra.
Chief Products
Bananas, cocoa, coconuts, coffee, copra, livestock.
Flag
The flag has green horizontal stripes (for forests and the sea) at the top and bottom; a yellow horizontal stripe (for soil) in the centre; and a red triangle (for the struggle for freedom) near the staff. Two black stars symbolising the country's two main islands appear on the yellow stripe. Adopted in 1975.


SARK
Sark is one of the Channel Islands, about 70 miles (110 kilometres) south of England and 22 miles (35 kilometres) off the French coast. Sark is only about 3 miles (4.8 kilometres) long and 11/2 miles (2.4 kilometres) wide. It has about 420 people and an area of 2 square miles (5 square kilometres).
Sark is the smallest self-governing unit in the United Kingdom. Many bays and coves cut into the coastline. Cliffs rise on all sides of the island. Tractors are the only motor vehicles allowed on Sark. The major forms of transportation on the island are bicycles and horse-drawn carriages.


SAUDI ARABIA
Saudi Arabia is a large Middle Eastern nation that ranks as the world's leading producer of petroleum. Much of the country consists of vast deserts where few people live and little or nothing grows. But beneath the sand and rock of Saudi Arabia lie some of the largest petroleum deposits in the world.
Saudi Arabia exports more oil than any other nation. Wealth from these exports has made Saudi Arabia a leading economic power in the Middle East. Oil riches have also made Saudi Arabia a land of contrasts. Cars and trucks speed along highways where camel caravans once provided the only transportation. High-rise apartment buildings have replaced nearly all the mud houses that once lined city streets.
Saudi Arabia includes about three-fourths of the land region called the Arabian Peninsula. Coastal plains and rugged mountains cover the western part of Saudi Arabia. Most of the country's central and eastern areas consist of waterless plateaus and deserts. Parts of these regions have fertile oases.
Before the development of Saudi Arabia's oil industry after World War II (1939-1945), most of the people lived in rural areas. With the development of the oil industry, large numbers of people moved to cities and towns. Today, most Saudis live in urban areas. Most of the Saudis who live in rural areas are farmers or nomadic (wandering) herders who tend their camels, goats, and sheep. The urban people are employed in the oil industry and in other occupations.
Nearly all the people who live in Saudi Arabia are Arab Muslims. The country holds a place of special honour in the Muslim world. Mecca and Medina, the two holiest cities of Islam, are in Saudi Arabia. Muslims from all over the world visit these cities on annual religious pilgrimages.
For hundreds of years, the land that is now Saudi Arabia was divided among many warring groups. The various regions joined together under the leadership of the Saud family during the early 1900's. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was proclaimed in 1932. Saudi Arabia remained a poor, backward nation until the mid-1900's, when income from the oil industry enabled the country to begin modernisation programs. Official
Name
Al-Mamlaka Al-Arabiyya Al-Saudiyya (Kingdom of Saudi Arabia).
Area
830,000 sq. mi. (2,149,690 sq. km).
Greatest distances
north-south, 1,145 mi. (1,843 km);
east-west, 1,290 mi. (2,076 km).
Coastline - 1,174 mi. (1,889 km) on the Red Sea; 341 mi. (549 km) on the Persian Gulf.
Elevation
Highest - 10,279 ft. (3,133 m) above sea level, in the Asir region near Abha.
Lowest - sea level.
Population
Estimated 1996 population - 18,171,000; density, 22 persons per sq. mi. (8 per sq. km); distribution, 80 percent urban, 20 percent rural. 1992 census - 16,929,294. Estimated 2001 population - 21,295,000.
Chief Products
Agriculture - chickens and eggs, dates, melons, milk, tomatoes, wheat.
Manufacturing - cement, fertiliser, food products, petrochemicals, steel.
Mining - petroleum.
Capital city
Riyadh
3037 miles from London
GMT +3 hours
International aircraft prefix
HZ
International dialling code
00 966
Currency
Riyal (SAR)
Language
Arabic
National holidays
23 September - Unification of the Kingdom
Embassy details
British Embassy
P O Box 94351
Riyadh 11693
Telephone (00 966) (1) 4880077
Opening hours 0800 to 1500 (local time)
National flag
Green with large white Arabic script above a white horizontal sabre


SCOTLAND
Scotland is one of the four major political divisions that make up the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The other divisions are England, Northern Ireland, and Wales. Glasgow is the largest city.
Scotland occupies the northern third of the island of Great Britain in the British Isles. Most of Scotland is mountainous. Its rugged mountains, green valleys, and deep, blue lakes provide some of the most beautiful scenery in Europe.
Most of the Scottish people live in the central part of Scotland, where there is flatter and more fertile land. Many Scots work in the service and manufacturing industries, which form the basis of the Scottish economy.
The Scottish people have long been famous for their close-knit clans (groups of related families), colourful plaid kilts, and skill as fierce warriors. But the clans have lost much of their importance, kilts are worn mainly for ceremonial occasions, and no war has been fought in Scotland for more than 200 years.
Capital
Edinburgh.
Official Language
English.
Area
30,421 sq. mi. (78,789 sq. km).
Greatest distances
north-south, 274 mi. (441 km);
east-west, 154 mi. (248 km).
Coastline - about 2,300 mi. (3,700 km).
Elevation
Highest - Ben Nevis, 4,406 ft. (1,343 m) above sea level.
Lowest - sea level along the coast.
Population
Estimated 1996 population - 5,149,000; density, 169 persons per sq. mi. (65 persons per sq. km); distribution, 86 percent urban, 14 percent rural. 1991 census - 4,999,000. Estimated 2001 population - 5,148,000.
National Anthem
Scotland the Brave.
Chief Products
Agriculture - barley, cattle, milk, sheep, wheat.
Fishing - cod, haddock, mackerel.
Manufacturing - foods and beverages, electronic equipment, chemicals, industrial machinery, paper, and textiles.
Mining - petroleum.


SEBORGA


SENEGAL
Senegal is a small country on the northwest coast of Africa. It lies at the tip of the huge bulge of northern Africa that juts westward toward the Atlantic Ocean. It extends farther west than any other African mainland nation.
Rolling plains cover most of Senegal. The tiny nation of Gambia divides the southern part of Senegal, called the Casamance, from the larger northern part. Dakar is the country's largest city and commercial centre.
Senegal became an independent nation in 1960. It had been ruled by France since the late 1800's.
Capital
Dakar.
Official Language
French.
Official Name
Republique du Senegal (Republic of Senegal).
Area
75,955 sq. mi. (196,722 sq. km).
Coastline - 310 mi. (499 km).
Elevation
Highest - 1,634 feet (498 metres), in the southeast.
Lowest - sea level.
Population
Estimated 1996 population - 8,610,000; density, 113 persons per sq. mi. (44 per sq. km); distribution, 58 percent rural, 42 percent urban. 1988 census - 6,896,808. Estimated 2001 population - 9,829,000.
National Anthem
"Pincez Tous Vos Koras, Frappez les Balafons" ("Pluck Your Koras, Strike the Balafons").
Money
Basic unit - franc.
Chief Products
Agriculture - peanuts, millet, cassava, cotton, poultry, rice, vegetables.
Manufacturing and processing - peanut products, fish products, refined petroleum, flour milling.
Mining - phosphates.
Flag
The flag has green, yellow, and red vertical stripes. A green star lies in the centre of the yellow stripe.


SEYCHELLES
Seychelles is an African country that consists of about 90 islands in the Indian Ocean. The islands are scattered over 400,000 square miles (1,000,000 square kilometres). The islands of Seychelles lie about 1,000 miles (1,600 kilometres) east of the African mainland.
Seychelles has a total land area of 176 square miles (455 square kilometres) and a population of 75,000. The largest island, Mahe, covers 59 square miles (153 square kilometres). About 85 percent of the nation's people live on Mahe. Most of the rest live on the next largest islands, Praslin and La Digue. Many of the smaller islands are uninhabited. Victoria, on Mahe, is the nation's chief port and only town. It has about 24,000 people. Seychelles was ruled by Britain from 1814 until 1976, when it became independent.
The country's basic unit of money is the rupee.
Seychelles is a republic. The people elect a president, who heads the government and appoints a Cabinet. A 33-member Legislative Assembly makes the country's laws. Voters elect 22 members of the Legislative Assembly, and 11 members are appointed by the president.
About 90 percent of the people of Seychelles have mixed African and European ancestry. The others are Chinese, Europeans of British or French origin, and people from India. About half of the nation's people live in cities and towns. About a third of Seychellois workers are employed by the government. Another 25 percent work in the construction or the tourist industries, and about 15 percent are farmers.
English and French are the country's official languages, but most of the people speak Creole, a dialect of French. Most Seychellois are Roman Catholics. Almost all Seychellois children attend school from the ages of 6 to 15. Some then join the National Youth Service, which provides academic instruction. Students also learn skills to help develop the nation, such as raising crops and fishing. The Polytechnic offers advanced vocational training. Most of the country's adults can read and write.
Many Seychellois men and women live together without being married, and about half the children are born to unmarried couples. In many cases, the woman provides clothing for herself and the children, and the man buys his own clothes and food for the family.
Seychelles consists of granite islands and coral islands. The granite islands have streams, mountains, and white, sandy beaches. The soil is fertile. But the land has many rocks, making farming difficult. The coral group is made up of atolls (ring-shaped coral islands) and low islands with reefs that rise a few feet above sea level. These islands cannot support much plant life, and many are uninhabited.
Cinnamon grows wild on much of Mahe, and coconut palms flourish on many of the islands. The coco de mer, a double coconut that weighs as much as 50 pounds (23 kilograms), grows only in Seychelles. The country has many unusual species of plants and birds, and giant tortoises also live there.
Seychelles has a hot, moist climate. Annual temperatures average from 75 °F (24 °C) to 86 °F (30 °C). The average annual rainfall ranges from 52 inches (132 centimetres) on some of the coral islands to 92 inches (234 centimetres) on Mahe.
Economy of Seychelles is based on tourism. The country's remote location and beautiful beaches attract many tourists. The tourist trade increased the need for hotels and restaurants, which led to the development of a construction industry during the 1970's.
A shortage of suitable farmland limits agricultural production in Seychelles. Cinnamon, coconuts, and copra (dried coconut meat) are the chief products. A growing fishing industry contributes to the economy.
An airport operates on Mahe, and a ferry travels daily among the three largest islands. The country has a TV station, a radio station, and two daily newspapers.
Portuguese sailors discovered Seychelles in the early 1500's. The islands were uninhabited at the time, and for the next 250 years they served chiefly as a hiding place for pirates. In 1742, an expedition from ile de France (now Mauritius) explored Mahe. France claimed the islands in 1756.
About 1770, a group of white planters and African slaves came from ile de France and settled on Mahe. For many years, Seychelles served as a supply station for French ships sailing to India and the East Indies. During the 1790's, war broke out between France and several European nations, including Britain. A treaty signed in 1814 gave Seychelles to Britain. Conditions on the islands declined under British rule. Britain did not establish schools there until 1944. During the early 1970's, many Seychellois began to demand an end to British rule. Seychelles became independent in June 1976. Since 1977, President France Albert Rene has been the country's most powerful leader. Until 1993, his Seychelles People's Progressive Front was the country's only legal political party. Opposition parties were allowed that year.


SIERRA LEONE
Sierra Leone is a small country on Africa's western "bulge," north of the equator. Sierra Leone provides a large portion of one of the world's most valuable treasures - diamonds. It is among the leading countries in the production of diamonds used for gems and also of diamonds used in industry. The diamonds lie in gravel deposits along riverbeds and in swamps in eastern parts of the country. About 70 percent of the diamonds are used to make gemstones, and the rest are less expensive diamonds used in industry.
Sierra Leone, a former British colonial possession, became independent in 1961. It remained a member of the Commonwealth of Nations. Freetown is the country's largest town and main port. The city was founded in 1787 as a settlement for freed slaves.
Capital
Freetown.
Official Language
English.
Area
27,699 sq. mi. (71,740 sq. km).
Greatest distances
north-south, 220 mi. (354 km);
east-west, 190 mi. (306 km).
Coastline - 210 mi. (338 km).
Population
Estimated 1996 population - 4,863,000; density, 176 persons per sq. mi. (68 per sq. km), distribution, 64 percent rural, 36 percent urban. 1985 census - 3,691,600. Estimated 2001 population - 5,532,000.
Money
Leone
Chief Products
Agriculture - cacao, cassava, coffee, ginger, oranges, palm kernels, peanuts, piassava, rice.
Mining - chrome ore, diamonds, iron ore, rutile.
Flag
Three horizontal stripes - green, white, and blue.


SINGAPORE
Singapore is a small island country in Southeast Asia. It lies near the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula about where the South China Sea and the Indian Ocean meet. The sea is an arm of the Pacific Ocean. Singapore consists of a large island and more than 50 smaller islands. The large island, which is also called Singapore, covers 221 square miles (572 square kilometres). The other islands have a combined area of about 18 square miles (46 square kilometres). About half are uninhabited.
The majority of Singapore's people are Chinese. Malays make up the largest minority group. Almost all the people live in the capital, which also has the name of Singapore. The capital lies on the southern coast of the main island and is a crowded, bustling centre of trade, finance, and manufacturing. The city's economic activity helps make Singapore one of the most prosperous countries in Asia.
Official Name
Republic of Singapore.
Total Land Area
239 sq. mi. (618 sq. km).
Greatest distances (on Singapore island)
east-west, 26 mi. (42 km);
north-south, 14 mi. (23 km).
Total coastline - 32 mi. (51 km).
Elevation
Highest - Timah Hill, 581 ft. (177 m) above sea level.
Lowest - sea level.
Population
Estimated 1996 population - 2,877,000; density, 12,038 persons per sq. mi. (4,655 per sq. km); distribution, 100 percent urban. 1990 census - 2,705,115. Estimated 2001 population - 2,996,000.
Chief Products
Manufacturing and processing - chemicals, electronic equipment, lumber, machinery, metals, paper, petroleum products, processed food, rubber, ships, textiles and clothing, transportation equipment.
Agriculture - eggs, pork, poultry.
National Anthem
"Majullah Singapura" ("Forward Singapore").
Flag
There are two horizontal stripes, red on top (for equality and brotherhood) and white below (for purity and virtue). A white crescent and five white stars (for democracy, peace, progress, justice, and equality) lie in the upper left corner.
Capital city
Singapore City
6742 miles from London
GMT +8 hours
International aircraft prefix
9V
International dialling code
00 65
Currency
Singapore Dollar (SGD)
Language
Chinese, Malay, Tamil and English
National holidays
9 August - National Day
Embassy details
British High Commission
Tanglin Road
Singapore 247919
Telephone (00 65) 4739333
Opening hours 0830 to 1300/1400 to 1700 (local time)
email brit_hc@pacific.net.sg
National flag
2 equal horizontal bands of red and white with a white crescent, partially enclosing five white 5-pointed stars, near the hoist side of the red band


SLOVAKIA
Slovakia is a country in central Europe. It is bordered by Poland on the north, Ukraine on the east, Hungary on the south, and Austria and the Czech Republic on the west. A series of mountain ranges covers most of the country.
Bratislava is the largest city of Slovakia. A Slavic people called Slovaks make up most of the country's population. Hungarians also make up the second largest ethnic groupin Slovakia.
For much of its history, Slovakia formed part of larger states. Hungary ruled Slovakia from the 900's until 1918. That year, the Slovaks joined with the Czechs and with other local groups to form Czechoslovakia.
In 1948, Communists took over Czechoslovakia's government. In 1989, following protests by large numbers of Czechs and Slovaks, the Communist government resigned and non-Communists came to power. Soon afterward, the Czechs and Slovaks began to disagree about important economic and political issues. In mid-1992, Czech and Slovak leaders decided to split Czechoslovakia into two nations, one for Czechs and one for Slovaks. On Jan. 1, 1993, the Czech Republic and Slovakia were created to replace Czechoslovakia.
Official Name
Slovenska Republika (Slovak Republic).
Area
18,933 sq. mi. (49,035 sq. km).
Greatest distances
east-west, 260 mi. (418 km);
north-south, 130 mi. (209 km).
Elevation
Highest - Gerlachovsky Stit, 8,711 ft. (2,655 m) above sea level.
Lowest - 308 ft. (94 m) above sea level, near the Bodrog River on the Hungarian border.
Population
Estimated 1996 population - 5,381,000; density, 284 persons per sq. mi. (110 per sq. km); distribution, 57 percent urban, 43 percent rural. 1991 census - 5,268,935. Estimated 2001 population - 5,519,000.
Chief Products
Agriculture - barley, corn, livestock, potatoes, sugar beets, wheat.
Manufacturing - ceramics, chemical products, machinery, petroleum products, steel, weapons.
Mining - coal.
National Anthem
"Nad Tatrou sa blyska ("Lightning Flashes over the Tatra").
Capital city
Bratislavia
798 miles from London
GMT +1 hours
International aircraft prefix
OM
International dialling code
00 421
Currency
Slovak Karuna (SKK)
Language
Slovak and Hungarian
Vehicle nationality plates
SK
National holidays
1 September - Constitution Day
29 August - Anniversary of the Slovak National Uprising
Embassy details
British Embassy
Panska 16
811 01 Bratislavia
Telephone (00 421) (7) 54419632
email bebra@internet.sk
Flag
The flag has horizontal stripes of white, blue, and red. The national coat of arms appears on the left side of the flag.


SLOVENIA
Slovenia is a small, mountainous country in central Europe that declared its independence in 1991. In 1918, Slovenia became part of the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes, later renamed Yugoslavia. In 1946, Yugoslavia became a federal state consisting of six republics, one of which was Slovenia.
Ljubljana, Slovenia's largest city, is the centre of cultural and political life in the nation. Other important towns in Slovenia are Maribor, the second largest city, and the port city of Koper.
Slovenes make up almost all of Slovenia's population. Most of the other residents of Slovenia are ethnic Croats, Serbs, or Hungarians. A small number of Italians, as well as members of other nationalities, also live in Slovenia.
Tourists visit Slovenia throughout the year. The mountains have ski resorts and beautiful lakes, and the short coastline has sunny beaches that attract many vacationers. In addition, tourists go to see the caves at Postojna, located near Ljubljana, which are the largest caverns in Europe.
Another tourist attraction is the village of Lipica, near the Italian border in southwestern Slovenia. For more than 400 years, Lipizzaner horses have been raised at a farm in this village for the Spanish Riding School of Vienna, Austria.
From 1945 to 1990, Communists held a monopoly on power in all of Yugoslavia, including Slovenia. In 1990, Slovenia held elections in which non-Communists won a majority of seats. The republic declared its independence in 1991.
Official Name
Republika Slovenija (Republic of Slovenia).
Area
7,836 sq. mi. (20,296 sq. km).
Greatest distances
north-south, 100 mi. (160 km);
east-west, 155 mi. (250 km).
Elevation
Highest - Mount Triglav, 9,393 ft. (2,863 m) above sea level.
Lowest - sea level along the coast.
Population
Estimated 1996 population - 2,016,000; density, 257 persons per sq. mi. (99 per sq. km); distribution, 51 per cent rural, 49 per cent urban. 1991 census - 1,974,839. Estimated 2001 population - 2,046,000.
Chief Products
Agriculture - apples, cattle, cherries, corn, hogs, pears, plums, potatoes, sheep, sugar beets, wheat.
Manufacturing - automobiles, chemicals, metal goods, textiles.
Mining - coal, lead, mercury.
National Anthem
"Zdravljica" ("The Toast").
Capital city
Ljubljana
761 miles from London
GMT +1 hours
International aircraft prefix
S5
International dialling code
00 386
Currency
Euro
Language
Slovenian and Serbo-Croatian
National holidays
25 June - National Statehood Day
Embassy details
4th Floor Trg Republike 3
1000 Ljubljana
Telephone (00 386) (1) 2003910
email info@british-embassy.si
National flag
3 equal horizontal bands of white, blue and red with the white seal of Slovenia in the centre with 2 wavy blue lines beneath it and three 6-pointed stars, arranged in an inverted triangle, above


SOLOMON ISLANDS
Solomon Islands is an island country in the South Pacific Ocean. Its largest islands are Choiseul, Guadalcanal, Malaita, New Georgia, San Cristobal, and Santa Isabel. Its many other islands include Bellona, Rennell, and the Santa Cruz Islands.
The country's largest islands are part of an island chain that is also called the Solomon Islands. But not all the islands in the chain belong to the country. Bougainville, Buka, and a few smaller islands in the northern part of the chain are part of Papua New Guinea.
The Solomon Islands lies about 1,000 miles (1,610 kilometres) northeast of Australia. It has a land area of 11,157 square miles (28,896 square kilometres). The country spreads over about 230,000 square miles (600,000 square kilometres) of ocean. About 416,000 people live in the Solomon Islands.
Britain ruled the Solomons from 1893 to 1978. Honiara, on Guadalcanal, is the capital and largest community of the Solomons. It has a population of approximately 30,000. The Solomon Islands dollar is the country's basic unit of currency. "God Save Our Solomon Islands" is the national anthem.
The Solomon Islands is a parliamentary democracy and a member of the Commonwealth of Nations. A prime minister, who is the leader of the political party with the most seats in Parliament, heads the government. A 15-member Cabinet helps the prime minister run the government. Cabinet members are appointed by the prime minister. A 38-member Parliament makes the country's laws. The people elect the members of Parliament to four-year terms. A governor general represents the British monarch in the Solomon Islands.
The Solomon Islands is divided into eight administrative areas - seven provinces and the city of Honiara. The provinces are governed by elected assemblies and Honiara is governed by a town council.
Most Solomon Islanders are dark-skinned people called Melanesians, and about 90 per cent of them live in rural villages. Many of the people build houses on stilts to keep the dwellings cool. The main foods of the people include chicken, fish, pork, coconuts, sweet potatoes, and taro, a tropical plant with one or more edible rootlike stems.
Although English is the official language of the Solomon Islands, about 90 languages are spoken among the Melanesians. The islanders also speak Solomons Pidgin, a form of Pidgin English, which helps them cross language barriers. About 80 per cent of the people are Protestants. The other islanders are Roman Catholics or follow local traditional beliefs. The nation has about 350 elementary schools and about 20 high schools. Students may attend college locally, at the College of Higher Education. About 200 islanders go to universities in Papua New Guinea and Fiji.
The country's main islands were formed by volcanoes. They are rugged, mountainous, and covered with tropical plants. The islands range from 90 to 120 miles (140 to 190 kilometres) long and from 20 to 30 miles (32 to 48 kilometres) wide. Each island has a central spine of mountains. Some of the mountains are more than 4,000 feet (1,200 metres) high. The land drops sharply to the sea on one side of the island and gently to a narrow coastal strip on the other. Some of the outlying islands are atolls (ring-shaped coral reefs).
Rainfall in the Solomon Islands varies from 60 to 200 inches (150 to 500 centimetres) annually. Temperatures range from 70° to 90° F. (21° to 32° C).
Fish, timber, palm oil, cocoa, and copra (dried coconut meat) are the main products of the Solomon Islands. Japan buys much of the fish and timber exported by the country. Food, machinery, manufactured goods, and gasoline are imported from Australia, Great Britain, Japan, Malaysia, and Singapore. The country has good shipping services, but it has few roads. Air routes connect the Solomon Islands with Australia and other neighbouring islands. The government publishes a weekly newspaper and broadcasts radio programs in both English and Pidgin English.
Scholars believe the Solomon Islands were first settled about 6,000 years ago by people from New Guinea. In 1568, Spanish explorer Alvaro de Mendana became the first European to reach the islands. Few other Europeans went there for the next 200 years. From 1870 to 1911, Europeans recruited nearly 30,000 islanders to work on plantations in Fiji and in Queensland, Australia. Some were recruited by force and treated harshly. As a result, Britain took control of most of the Solomons in 1893. By 1899, Britain had made all the Solomons part of a protectorate.
Guadalcanal and other islands in the Solomons were the scene of fierce fighting between Allied and Japanese forces in 1942 and 1943, during World War II. The Solomon Islands gained independence from Britain on July 7, 1978.


SOMALIA
Somalia is the easternmost country on the mainland of Africa. Its coastline, which runs along the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean, forms the outer edge of the "horn" of Africa.
Almost all the people of Somalia speak the Somali language and are Sunni Muslims. Somalia's largest city is Mogadishu. The country's official name is the Somali Democratic Republic. Somalia became an independent nation in 1960. Before then, Britain ruled the northern section, and Italy ruled the south. In the early 1990's, Somalia attracted world attention after drought and civil war led to widespread starvation there.
Capital
Mogadishu.
Official Language
Somali.
Area
246,201 sq. mi. (637,657 sq. km).
Greatest distances
north-south, 950 mi. (1,529 km);
east-west, 730 mi. (1,175 km).
Coastline - 1,800 mi. (2,408 km).
Elevation
Highest - Mount Surud Ad, 7,900 ft. (2,408 m) above sea level.
Lowest - sea level along the coast.
Population
Estimated 1996 population - 6,872,000; density, 28 persons per sq. mi. (11 persons per sq. km); distribution, 74 percent rural, 26 percent urban. 1987 census - 7,114,431. Estimated 2000 population - 7,987,000.
Money
Basic unit--Somali shilling.
Chief Products
Agriculture - bananas, grains, hides and skins, livestock, sugar cane.
Manufacturing - processed foods, sugar.
Flag
The light blue flag has a large white star in the center. The colours come from the United Nations flag.


SOMALILAND


SOUTH AFRICA
South Africa is a country that lies at the southern tip of the continent of Africa. The country has a wealth of natural resources, especially minerals, and it is the most highly industrialised country in Africa. South Africa also has great natural beauty and geographical variety.
Despite South Africa's abundant resources and beautiful landscape, it has been troubled by violence and isolated from other countries because of its racial policies. It was the last nation in Africa ruled by a white minority. From the late 1940's until the early 1990's, the white-controlled government enforced a policy of rigid racial segregation called apartheid. It denied voting rights and other rights to the black majority.
In 1990 and 1991, South Africa repealed the last of the laws on which apartheid was based. In 1993, the country extended voting rights to all races, and democratic elections were held the following year. After the 1994 elections, South Africa's white leaders handed over power to the country's first multiracial government. Nelson Mandela, a civil rights leader who had spent 27 years in prison, became South Africa's first black president.
South Africa's great riches are distributed unevenly among the country's population. White people, who are a minority of South Africa's population, own most of the wealth. Black people, people of mixed race, and people of Asian ancestry - who together make up a majority of the population - own very little. The new multiracial government has vowed to improve the economic status of nonwhites.
Capitals
Cape Town (legislative), Pretoria (administrative), Bloemfontein (judicial).
Official languages
South Africa's 11 official languages are (1) Afrikaans, (2) English, (3) Ndebele, (4) North Sesotho, (5) South Sesotho, (6) Swazi, (7) Tsonga, (8) Tswana, (9) Venda, (10) Xhosa, and (11) Zulu.
Official name
Republic of South Africa.
National anthems
"Die Stem van Suid-Afrika" ("The Call of South Africa") and "Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika" ("God Bless Africa").
Largest cities (1991 census)
Cape Town (854,616);
Durban (715,669);
Johannesburg (712,507);
Soweto (596,632);
Pretoria (525,583).
Land
South Africa lies at the southern tip of Africa, with a coastline on the Indian and Atlantic oceans. The country borders Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, and Swaziland, and it completely surrounds the country of Lesotho. South Africa's interior is mostly plateau. Coastal lowlands lie in the east. The Cape Mountains are in the far south. The Namib Desert stretches along the west coast. The Kalahari Desert covers much of the northwest interior. South Africa's main rivers include the Orange and its branch, the Vaal.
Area
471,445 sq. mi. (1,221,037 sq. km).
Greatest distances
east-west 1,010 mi. (1,625 km);
north-south, 875 mi. (1,408 km).
Coastline - about 1,836 mi. (2,954 km).
Elevation
Highest - Champagne Castle, 11,072 ft. (3,375 m).
Lowest - sea level.
Climate
South Africa's climate is generally mild and sunny. The Cape Mountains Region has warm, dry summers and cool, wet winters. Much of the Coastal Strip has hot, humid summers and dry, sunny winters. In the Plateau, summer days are hot, but the nights are cool. The winter is cold. The deserts are hot and dry. Only about a fourth of South Africa receives more than 25 inches (64 centimetres) of rain yearly. More rain falls in the east than in the west.
Form of government
Parliamentary republic.
Head of government
President.
Legislature
Parliament of two houses: National Assembly (350 to 400 members); National Council of Provinces (90 members).
Executive
President (elected by the National Assembly) and Cabinet.
Judiciary
Constitutional Court is highest court.
Political subdivisions
Nine provinces.
Population
1996 estimate - 43,715,000. 1991 census - 30,986,920 (excluding the black homelands Bophuthatswana, Ciskei, Transkei, and Venda). 2001 estimate - 48,904,000. Population density: 93 persons per sq. mi. (36 per sq. km). Distribution: 51 percent urban, 49 percent rural.
Major ethnic/national groups
76 percent black (mainly Zulu, Xhosa, Sotho, and Tswana); 13 percent white; 9 percent coloured people of mixed background; 2 percent Asian.
Major religions
39 percent Protestant; 17 percent African indigenous churches; 15 percent traditional African religions; 8 percent Roman Catholic.
Chief products
Agriculture - corn, chickens and eggs, beef cattle, wheat, sugar cane, sheep, wool, apples.
Manufacturing - chemicals, processed foods and beverages, transportation equipment, iron and steel, fabricated metal products, machinery, paper products, textiles.
Mining - gold, coal, diamonds, copper, iron ore, uranium, manganese, chromite, platinum, vanadium.
Gross domestic product
1991 total GDP - $108,076,000,000. 1991 GDP per capita - $2,670.
International trade
Major exports - gold, diamonds, metals and minerals, wool, corn, sugar.
Major imports - machinery, petroleum and petroleum products, transportation equipment, electrical equipment, computers.
Major trading partners - Germany, United States, Japan, United Kingdom, Switzerland.
Capital city
Pretoria
5592 miles from London
GMT +2 hours
International aircraft prefix
ZS
International dialling code
00 27
Currency
Rand (ZAR)
Language
Afrikaans, English, Ndebele, Pedi, Sotho, Swazi, Tsonga, Tswana, Venda, Xhosa and Zulu
National holidays
27 April - Freedom Day
Embassy details
British High Commission
91 Parliament Street
Cape Town 8001
Telephone (00 27) (21) 4617220
Opening hours 0830 to 1715 Monday to Thursday, 0830 to 1230 Friday (local time)
email britain@icon.co.za
National flag
2 equal horizontal bands of red and blue separated by a green band which splits into a horizontal Y which embraces a black isosceles triangle


SOUTH GEORGIA SOUTH SANDWICH ISLANDS


SOUTH KOREA
Korea is a land in eastern Asia that consists of two states. One is the Republic of Korea - usually called South Korea. Seoul is its largest city. South Korea is strongly anti-Communist.
North and South Korea lie on the Korean Peninsula, which extends south from northeastern China. North Korea covers the northern half of the peninsula, and South Korea occupies the southern half. North Korea is slightly larger in area than South Korea, but the South has about twice as many people as the North.
Plains stretch along the western, northeastern, and southern coasts of Korea. Mountains cover most of the rest of the peninsula. Most of the Korean people by far live on the coastal plains or in river valleys.
Until the early 1900's, Korea's economy was based entirely on agriculture, and virtually all Koreans worked as farmers. After the early 1900's, the country underwent vast changes. Today, industry is far more important than agriculture in both North and South Korea.
Scientists have evidence that people lived in what is now Korea at least 30,000 years ago. Various Korean and foreign states ruled the Korean peninsula from ancient times to the 1900's. Korea was a colony of Japan from 1910 until World War II ended in 1945. After Japan's defeat in the war, Korea was divided. The separate governments of South and North Korea were formed in 1948.
Communists had gained control of the North in 1945. In 1950, North Korean troops invaded South Korea. This action started the Korean War, which was part of the Cold War struggle between Communist and non-Communist nations. The Korean War ended in 1953. But neither side won a complete victory, and a permanent peace treaty has never been signed.
Since the war, small-scale fighting between South and North Korea has occasionally taken place. Since the early 1970's, representatives of the two states have held discussions from time to time about reunifying Korea. In 1991, a series of talks resulted in several agreements, including a pact in which the North and the South agreed not to use force against each other. This pact represented the most significant development in North-South relations since the division of Korea.
Capital
Seoul.
Official language
Korean.
Official name
Taehan-minguk (Republic of Korea).
Area
38,326 sq. mi. (99,263 sq. km), including islands and excluding the 487-sq. mi. (1,262-sq. km) demilitarised zone.
Greatest distances
north-south, 300 mi. (480 km);
east-west, 185 mi. (298 km).
Coastline - 819 mi. (1,318 km).
Elevation
Highest - Halla-san (Halla Mountain), 6,398 ft. (1,950 m) above sea level.
Lowest - sea level.
Population
Estimated 1996 population - 45,516,000; density, 1,188 persons per sq. mi. (459 persons per sq. km); distribution, 78 percent urban, 22 percent rural. 1990 census - 43,410,899. Estimated 2001 population - 47,174,000.
Chief products
Agriculture - apples, barley, Chinese cabbage, melons, onions, potatoes, rice, soybeans, sweet potatoes.
Manufacturing - automobiles, chemicals, clothing, computer equipment, electric appliances, iron and steel, machinery, plywood, processed foods, rubber tires, ships, shoes, television sets, textiles.
Mining - coal, tungsten.
Fishing - filefish, oysters, pollock.
Money
Basic unit - won.


SPAIN
Spain is a country in western Europe famous for its colourful bullfights, sunny climate, and beautiful story-book castles. Until the mid-1900's, Spain was one of the most under-developed countries of western Europe. Most of the people were poor farmers. Then during the 1950's and 1960's, rapid economic development changed Spain into an industrial nation.
Today, more Spaniards work in manufacturing and construction than on farms. Most of the people live in cities. The standard of living has risen rapidly. Modern urban ways of life have become more popular among the Spanish people. Many of the country's old customs, such as taking a siesta (nap or rest) after lunch, are disappearing.
Spain is one of the largest countries in Europe in area. Spain occupies about five-sixths of the Iberian Peninsula, which lies in southwestern Europe between the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea.
Spain also includes the Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean Sea and the Canary Islands in the Atlantic Ocean. Madrid, Spain's largest city, stands in the centre of the country.
Spain is one of the world's leading tourist countries. Each year, millions of people visit Spain's sunny Mediterranean beaches and islands, the rocky Atlantic coast, and the castles and churches that stand in historic Spanish cities.
On Spain's northeastern border, the mighty Pyrenees Mountains separate Spain from France. These mountains once were a great barrier to overland travel between the Iberian Peninsula and the rest of Europe. Africa lies only about 8 miles (13 kilometres) south of Spain across the Strait of Gibraltar.
Most of Spain is a high, dry plateau called the Meseta. Hills and mountains rise throughout the Meseta, and north of it a mountain barrier extends across the peninsula. Spain also lacks many raw materials needed by industry, and crops do not grow well in the country's poor soil and dry climate. But in spite of Spain's rugged landscape and poor resources, the proud, strong-willed Spaniards once established one of the largest empires in world history.
In the A.D. 700's, Moors, a Muslim people from northern Africa, conquered most of Spain. They held control for hundreds of years. In the 1000's, the Spanish people began to drive the Moors from the country. The Spaniards finally defeated the Moors in 1492. That same year, Christopher Columbus, who was sailing in Spanish ships, reached America.
Columbus' voyage touched off a great age of Spanish exploration and conquest. The Spaniards built an empire that included much of western South America and southern North America, as well as lands in Africa, Asia, and Europe. But beginning in the late 1500's, economic difficulties, wars with other countries, and civil wars weakened Spain, and the country lost most of its huge empire. Spain then remained a poor, weak nation until the mid-1900's.
During the late 1930's, a bloody civil war tore Spain apart. The war brought General Francisco Franco to power as dictator. Franco controlled the country until his death in 1975. Spain became a democracy after Franco died.
Official Language
Castilian Spanish; Catalan, Galician (a Portuguese dialect), and Basque are official languages in provinces where they are widely spoken. About 17 percent of population speaks Catalan, 8 percent Galician, and 2 percent Basque; most also speak Spanish.
National Anthem
"Marcha Real" ("The Royal March").
Largest Cities: (1991 census)
Madrid (2,909,792);
Seville (659,126);
Barcelona (1,625,542);
Saragossa (586,219);
Valencia (752,909);
Malaga (512,136).
Land
Spain occupies five-sixths of the Iberian Peninsula in far southwestern Europe. The other one-sixth is occupied by Portugal. Spain also includes the Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean Sea and the Canary Islands in the Atlantic Ocean. The country borders France, Portugal, the Atlantic Ocean, and the Mediterranean Sea. A plateau called the Meseta is the largest land region of Spain. Hills and mountains rise throughout the plateau. North of the plateau, mountains extend across the country. The Pyrenees Mountains in the northeast form Spain's border with France. Spain's chief rivers include the Ebro, Guadalquivir, and Tagus.
Area
194,885 sq. mi. (504,750 sq. km), including Balearic and Canary Islands.
Greatest distances
east-west, 646 mi. (1,040 km);
north- south, 547 mi. (880 km).
Coastline - 2,345 mi. (3,774 km).
Elevation
Highest - Pico de Teide, 12,198 ft. (3,718 m) above sea level, in Canary Islands.
Lowest - sea level along the coast.
Climate
Most of Spain has hot, sunny summers and cold winters. In the interior, average temperatures rise above 80 degrees F (27 degrees C) in July and fall below 30 degrees F (-1 degree C) in January. The northern mountains have somewhat cooler summers and warmer winters. The Mediterranean coast, Balearic Islands, and Canary Islands have warmer weather than the rest of the country.
Form of Government
Parliamentary monarchy.
Head of State
King.
Head of Government
Prime minister.
Legislature
Parliament of two houses - the Chamber of Deputies (350 members) and the Senate (208 members). The Chamber of Deputies is more powerful than the Senate.
Executive
Prime minister; Cabinet selected by the prime minister.
Political Subdivisions
50 provinces in 17 regions.
Population
1996 estimate - 39,347,000. 1991 census - 39,433,942. 2001 estimate - 39,727,000. Population Density: 202 persons per sq. mi. (78 persons per sq. km). Distribution: 81 percent urban, 19 percent rural.
Major Ethnic/National Groups
About 98 percent Spanish (including Catalans, Basques, and others who have long lived in Spain). Some citizens of other European countries, Moroccans, and Latin Americans.
Major Religion
About 95 percent Roman Catholic.
Chief Products
Agriculture - barley, hogs, milk, olives, oranges, potatoes, sheep, sugar beets, tomatoes, wheat, wine.
Fishing - mussels, sardines, squid.
Manufacturing - automobiles, chemicals, food products, iron and steel, machinery, ships, shoes, textiles.
Gross Domestic Product
1991 total GDP - $527,100,000,000. 1991 GDP per capita - $13,300.
International Trade
Major exports - automobiles, fruit, machinery, petroleum products, shoes, textiles.
Major imports - automobiles, chemicals, electrical equipment, machinery, petroleum products, primary metals.
Major trading partners - France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Netherlands, United Kingdom, United States.
Capital city
Madrid
787 miles from London
GMT +1 hour
International aircraft prefix
EC
International dialling code
00 34
Currency
Peseta (ESP)
Vehicle nationality plates
E
National holidays
12 October - National Day
Embassy details
British Embassy
Calle de Fernando el Santo 16
28010 Madrid
Telephone (00 34) (91) 7008200
Opening hours 1000 to 1430/1600 to 1900 in winter, 0930 to 1600 Monday to Thursday/ 0900 to 1530 Friday in summer (local time)
web site http://www.ukinspain.com
National flag
3 horizontal bands of red, yellow and red with the national coat of arms on the hoist side of the yellow band


SRI LANKA
Sri Lanka is a beautiful island country in the Indian Ocean. It lies about 20 miles (32 kilometres) off the southeast coast of India. Its official name is the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka. The country was formerly called Ceylon.
Agriculture is Sri Lanka's chief economic activity. Many of the country's farmers grow world-famous Sri Lanka tea, also called Ceylon tea. Sri Lanka became independent in 1948 after nearly 450 years of European rule. Colombo, a seaport, is the largest city.
Official Languages
Sinhala and Tamil.
Area
25,332 sq. mi. (65,610 sq. km).
Greatest distances
north-south, 270 mi. (435 km);
east-west, 140 mi. (225 km).
Coastline - 748 mi. (1,204 km).
Elevation
Highest - Pidurutalagala, 8,281 ft. (2,524 m).
Lowest - sea level.
Population
Estimated 1996 population - 18,559,000; density, 733 persons per sq. mi. (283 per sq. km); distribution, 78 percent rural, 22 percent urban. 1981 census - 14,846,750. Estimated 2001 population - 19,640,000.
Chief Products
Agriculture - rubber, rice, tea, coconuts.
Manufacturing - food products, rubber products, textiles.
National Anthem
Sri Lanka Matha ("Sri Lanka, Motherland").
Capital city
Colombo
5410 miles from London
GMT +5½ hours
International aircraft prefix
4R
International dialling code
00 94
Currency
Sri Lanka Rupee (LKR)
National holidays
4 February - Independence and National Day
Embassy details
British High Commission
190 Galle Road
Kollupitiya
P O Box 1433
Colombo 3
Telephone (00 94) (1) 437336
Opening hours 0730 to 1630 Monday to Thursday, 0800 to 1600 Friday (local time)
email bhc@eureka.lk
Flag
A yellow lion on a crimson field is a symbol of precolonial Sri Lanka. Ornaments in the corners are bo leaves, which are Buddhist symbols. At the left, a vertical green stripe stands for the Moors and an orange stripe for the Tamils.
Yellow background with two panels, the smaller with two equal vertical bands of green and orange, the other a large red rectangle with a yellow lion holding a sword. There is a yellow leaf in each corner and the yellow forms a border around the entire flag


ST HELENA
Saint Helena is a British island in the Atlantic Ocean. It lies about 1,200 miles (1,930 kilometres) off the southwest coast of Africa, and about 700 miles (1,100 kilometres) southeast of Ascension Island, which is the nearest land. St. Helena is famous because Napoleon Bonaparte was forced to live there from 1815 until his death in 1821.
The Portuguese discovered St. Helena in 1502, but it has belonged to Britain since 1673. It serves as the administrative centre for certain other British islands in the southern part of the Atlantic Ocean. These include Ascension Island and the Tristan da Cunha group, which consists of Tristan da Cunha, Gough, Inaccessible, and Nightingale islands.
St. Helena is rough and mountainous. It covers 47 square miles (122 square kilometres) of lonely, volcanic wasteland. Barren cliffs rise 1,000 feet (300 metres) above sea level. The only village and port is Jamestown, the island capital. It lies at the mouth of a small mountain stream near James Bay. St. Helena has a population of about 5,600. The people are Europeans, East Indians, and Africans.
Less than a third of St. Helena can be used for raising crops. The chief crop is New Zealand flax. Grasslands where cattle and sheep graze cover part of the island. The government has helped set up factories to make fibre mats. Other industries include fish curing and lacemaking.


ST KITTS AND NEVIS
Saint Kitts and Nevis is a country in the Caribbean Sea that consists of two islands. The islands are St. Kitts (sometimes called St. Christopher) and Nevis. The islands lie about 190 miles (310 kilometres) east of Puerto Rico. The country has a land area of 101 square miles (262 square kilometres). St. Kitts covers 65 square miles (168 square kilometres), and Nevis covers 36 square miles (93 square kilometres). St. Kitts and Nevis has a population of about 44,000. About 80 percent of the people live on St. Kitts.
St. Kitts and Nevis became an independent nation in 1983, after being controlled by Britain since 1713. Basseterre (pop. 14,725) is the country's capital and largest city. The East Caribbean dollar is the basic unit of currency.
St. Kitts and Nevis is a constitutional monarchy and a member of the Commonwealth of Nations. A prime minister heads the government and carries out its operations with the aid of a Cabinet. A one-house parliament makes the country's laws. It consists of eight representatives from St. Kitts, three representatives from Nevis, and three senators. The people elect the representatives. The senators are appointed on the advice of the prime minister and the leader of the opposition political party. The head of the political party with the most seats in parliament usually serves as prime minister. Nevis has its own local legislature. It has the right to secede and become an independent country.
Almost all the people of St. Kitts and Nevis are descendants of black Africans. The people speak English, the official language. About two-thirds of the people live in rural villages scattered along the coasts. Most of the rural people work on small farms, sugar cane estates, or large coconut farms. Most of the rest of the people live in urban areas. Basseterre, on St. Kitts, is the chief urban centre. Charlestown is the main urban centre of Nevis. Most of the country's people live in wooden houses. They wear clothing similar to that worn in Western nations. Children must attend school from the ages of 5 to 17.
The two islands lie about 2 miles (3.2 kilometres) apart. They are the tops of volcanic peaks that rise out of the Caribbean Sea. The peak that forms much of St. Kitts is called Mount Misery. It rises 3,792 feet (1,156 metres) above sea level. The peak of Nevis is 3,232 feet (985 metres) above sea level. Both islands have rolling landscapes with fertile, narrow plains along the coasts. Many of the beaches have black volcanic sand. The annual rainfall is about 55 inches (140 centimetres). The average temperature is 78 °F (25 °C).
The economy of St. Kitts and Nevis is based on sugar and tourism. Sugar cane is raised on St. Kitts and is processed at a large government-owned sugar mill there. The fertile land of Nevis is divided into small farms that produce vegetables, fruits, and cotton. The principal manufactured goods of the country include clothing and footwear. The country's beaches, scenery, and warm sunny climate attract many tourists. Unemployment is high on both islands, especially during periods when tourism and sugar production are slow. The country's main trading partners are the United Kingdom, the United States, and Canada.
Both islands have bus service. St. Kitts has an international airport. Ferryboats and small planes carry people between the two islands.
Arawak Indians were the first inhabitants of the islands of St. Kitts and Nevis. They were followed by Carib Indians. Christopher Columbus sighted the islands in 1493 on his second voyage to the New World. In 1623, the British began settling on St. Kitts. French settlers soon followed. Nevis was first settled by the British in 1628. The European settlers brought African slaves to St. Kitts to work on sugar cane plantations.
Britain took complete control of St. Kitts in 1713. The British later ruled St. Kitts and Nevis, along with the island of Anguilla, as a single colony. In 1967, the colony became an associated state of Britain. Anguilla became a separate British dependency in 1980. St. Kitts and Nevis became an independent nation on Sept. 19, 1983.
In September 1989, Hurricane Hugo struck St. Kitts and Nevis. It severely damaged many buildings and left many people temporarily homeless.


ST LUCIA
Saint Lucia is an island country in the West Indies. It is one of the Windward Islands, a group of islands in the southeastern West Indies. St. Lucia lies in the Caribbean Sea about 240 miles (386 kilometres) north of Venezuela. It has an area of 240 square miles (622 square kilometres) and a population of about 148,000.
St. Lucia became independent in 1979 after being ruled by Britain since 1814. Castries, on the northwest coast, is the capital and largest city. The East Caribbean dollar is the basic unit of currency.
St. Lucia is a constitutional monarchy and a member of the Commonwealth of Nations. A prime minister heads the country's government. The prime minister governs with the aid of a Cabinet of 10 members. A 17-member House of Assembly and an 11-member Senate pass the nation's laws. The members of the House are elected by the people. Government leaders appoint Senate members.
About 90 percent of the people of St. Lucia are descendants of black African slaves. Early British and French settlers brought the slaves to the island. Whites make up most of the rest of the population. They include descendants of the British and French settlers. More than 90 percent of the islanders are Roman Catholics.
About 55 percent of the islanders live in rural areas, and about 45 percent live in urban areas, which lie near the coast. English is the nation's official language. But islanders commonly speak a French dialect. Children must attend school from the ages of 5 to 15. St. Lucia has a technical school and a teachers college.
St. Lucia is mountainous and has little flatland. Tropical vegetation covers the country. Mount Gimie, St. Lucia's highest peak, rises 3,145 feet (959 metres) near the center of the island. Gros Piton and Petit Piton, twin peaks in the southwest area, are ancient volcanic cones. St. Lucia averages about 100 inches (254 centimetres) of rain annually. Temperatures range from about 85 to 68 °F (29 to 20 °C). Mountain temperatures may fall lower.
Economy of St. Lucia is based on agriculture. The islanders use most of the produce that they grow. However, bananas, cocoa, and coconuts are exported. Tourism is an important source of income. Factories manufacture clothing, electrical parts, paper products, and textiles. However, industry plays a minor role in the economy.
A paved road encircles the island and connects the main towns with Castries. St. Lucia has two airports.
The Arawak Indians were the original inhabitants of St. Lucia. They were conquered by the Carib Indians in the 1300's. During the early 1600's, the Carib fought the French and British and prevented them from settling on the island. After the Carib and the French signed a peace treaty in 1660, French settlers established a permanent colony on St. Lucia. The French, and also the British, later began other settlements there.
Control of St. Lucia alternated between Britain and France 14 times until Britain took over in 1814. Through the years, both the British and French brought slaves from Africa to work on plantations. In 1833, Britain banned slavery throughout its empire. The British gradually gave St. Lucia more control over its affairs, and the country became independent on Feb. 22, 1979.
In 1983, St. Lucia and several other Caribbean nations joined the United States in an invasion of Grenada to overthrow a Marxist government there.


ST PIERRE MIQUELON
Saint-Pierre and Miquelon are two small French islands located off the southern coast of the island of Newfoundland. They lie about 15 miles (24 kilometres) to the west of Burin Peninsula. The rocky islands cover a total area of 93 square miles (242 square kilometres) and have a population of about 6,000. They are ruled by an administrator who is assisted by a privy council, made up of chiefs of departments. The general council, made up of 14 elected members, manages financial and other local affairs. The two islands and several small islet dependencies make up a political unit of France called a territorial collectivity.
The islands are an important base for French fishing operations. They also draw many summer tourists. St.-Pierre, the capital and largest town, has a good harbor.
France first occupied the islands in 1635. England and France controlled them in turn until 1814, when France took final possession. In 1956, the French government gave them self-government.


ST VINCENT AND THE GRENADINES
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines is a small island country in the West Indies. It lies in the Caribbean Sea, about 200 miles (320 kilometres) north of Venezuela. The country consists of the island of St. Vincent and about 100 small islands of the Grenadine chain, including Bequia, Canouan, Mayreau, Mustique, and Union. It has a total land area of 150 square miles (388 square kilometres) and a population of about 113,000.
St. Vincent and the Grenadines became independent in 1979 after being ruled by Britain since 1783. Kingstown, on the southern coast of St. Vincent, is the capital and largest city. The basic unit of money is the East Caribbean dollar.
St. Vincent and the Grenadines is a constitutional monarchy and a member of the Commonwealth of Nations. A prime minister runs the government with the aid of a Cabinet. A one-house Parliament, which has 15 representatives and 6 senators, makes the country's laws. The people elect the representatives. The governor general, a symbolic official appointed by the British monarch, appoints the senators. The head of the political party with the most seats in Parliament serves as prime minister.
Most of the people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines are descendants of black African slaves. British and French settlers brought the slaves to the islands. About a fourth of the people live in urban areas, and the rest live in rural localities.
English is the official language of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. However, many people chiefly speak a patois (dialect) that is a mixture of African languages and French. About half of the people are Anglicans. Other religious groups include Methodists and Roman Catholics.
St. Vincent and the Grenadines is a mountainous country that was formed by volcanic eruptions. Tropical vegetation covers much of the land. Mount Soufriere, an active volcano on the northern end of St. Vincent, is the country's highest point. It rises 4,048 feet (1,234 metres). Temperatures in the country seldom rise above 90° F (32° C) or fall below 65° F (18° C). The annual rainfall ranges from 60 inches (150 centimetres) on the southeast coast of St. Vincent to 150 inches (381 centimetres) in the island's central mountains.
Economy of St. Vincent and the Grenadines is based on agriculture. Most of the people work on farms. The main export crops include bananas and coconuts. The country is the world's leading producer of arrowroot, a plant whose roots are made into starch. Fishing, manufacturing, and tourism are minor economic activities in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
Arawak Indians were the first inhabitants of what became St. Vincent and the Grenadines. They were conquered about 1300 by the Carib Indians of South America. Britain took control of the islands in 1783. Until that time, the Carib, the British, and the French had fought one another for the islands. During the struggle, the British and French had imported slaves from Africa to work on the plantations. The Carib continued to fight the British until the mid-1790's, when their revolt was crushed. Slavery was abolished in St. Vincent and the Grenadines in 1833.
St. Vincent and the Grenadines gradually gained freedom from Britain. It became independent on Oct. 27, 1979. In December 1979, police put down a minor revolt on Union Island by a group that wanted more power in the country's new government. In 1983, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and several other Caribbean nations joined the United States in an invasion of Grenada to overthrow a Marxist government there.


SUDAN
Sudan is the largest country in Africa in area. It lies in the northeastern part of the continent. Sudan is a land of widely differing geography. It sprawls across vast deserts in the north, grassy plains in its central region, and steamy jungles and swamps in the south. The Nile River is Sudan's most important geographic feature. Khartoum, the capital, and Omdurman, the largest city, lie on the Nile. Most of Sudan's people live near the Nile or one of its branches.
The people of Sudan are divided. Most northern Sudanese consider themselves Arabs and are Muslims. In the southern third of Sudan, the people belong to several different African ethnic groups. They speak a number of different languages, and most follow traditional African religions or are Christians. Most Sudanese work as farmers. A small percentage are nomads, who move in search of water and grazing land for their herds.
People have lived in what is now Sudan for thousands of years. Ancient kingdoms flourished in parts of Sudan, and Egypt controlled the country at various times. Sudan became independent in 1956.
Capital
Khartoum.
Official Language
Arabic.
Area:
967,500 sq. mi. (2,505,813 sq. km).
Greatest distances
north-south, 1,275 mi. (2,050 km);
east-west, 1,150 mi. (1,850 km).
Coastline - 400 mi. (644 km).
Elevation
Highest - Mount Kinyeti, 10,456 ft. (3,187 m) above sea level.
Lowest - sea level.
Population
Estimated 1996 population - 27,061,000; density, 28 persons per sq. mi. (11 per sq. km); distribution, 75 percent rural, 25 percent urban. 1993 census - 24,940,683. Estimated 2001 population - 30,914,000.
Chief Products
Agriculture - cotton, millet, peanuts, sesame, sorghum, sugar cane.
Forest industry - gum arabic.
Manufacturing and processing - cement, fertiliser, food products, shoes, textiles.
Mining - chromium, gold, gypsum.
Flag
Three horizontal stripes of red, white, and black, with a green triangle symbolising Islam. Adopted in 1970.
Money
Basic unit--Sudanese pound.


SURINAME
Suriname is a country on the northeast coast of South America. The country's name is also spelled Surinam. Mountainous rain forests cover about 80 percent of Suriname, and most of the people live in the flat coastal area. Suriname is the smallest independent country in South America, both in area and population. Nearly half of the people live in Paramaribo, the largest city and chief port. The Netherlands ruled the country during most of the period from 1667 until 1975, when Suriname gained independence.
Capital
Paramaribo.
Official Language
Dutch.
Area
63,037 sq. mi. (163,265 sq. km).
Coastline - 226 mi. (364 km).
Greatest distances
north-south, 285 mi. (459 km);
east-west, 280 mi. (451 km).
Elevation
Highest - Mount Juliana Top, 4,200 ft. (1,280 m).
Lowest - sea level.
Population
Estimated 1996 population - 470,000; density, 7 persons per sq. mi. (3 per sq. km); distribution, 50 percent rural, 50 percent urban. 1980 census - 352,041. Estimated 2001 population - 506,000.
Money
Basic unit - guilder.
Chief Products
Aluminium, bananas, bauxite, rice.
National Anthem
"Opo Kondre Man Oen Opo" ("Arise People, Arise").
Flag
The flag has five horizontal stripes of green, white, red, white, and green. A yellow star lies in the centre.


SWAZILAND
Swaziland is a small, beautiful country in southern Africa. It is surrounded by the Republic of South Africa on three sides and by Mozambique on the east. Swaziland has rich mineral deposits, large forests, and good farm and ranch land. However, most of the mines, processing plants, and profitable farms are owned by Europeans of South African origin. Most of the Swazi who live in Swaziland are peasant farmers.
Swaziland was formerly a British protectorate. It became independent in 1968 as the Kingdom of Swaziland. Mbabane is Swaziland's largest town. Lobamba, a village, is the traditional, or royal, capital. Manzini is the country's main commercial centre.
Capitals
Mbabane (administrative) and Lobamba (traditional).
Official Languages
siSwati and English.
Area
6,704 sq. mi. (17,363 sq. km).
Greatest distances
north-south, 120 mi. (193 km);
east-west, 90 mi. (140 km).
Elevation
Highest - Mount Emlembe, 6,109 ft. (1,862 m) above sea level.
Lowest - 70 ft. (21 m) above sea level.
Population
Estimated 1996 population - 882,000; density, 132 persons per sq. mi. (51 persons per sq. km); distribution, 69 percent rural, 31 percent urban. 1986 census - 681,059. Estimated 2001 population - 1,010,000.
Chief Products
Agriculture - corn, sugar cane, cotton, rice, tobacco, citrus fruits, hides and skins.
Manufacturing - cement, fertiliser, food products, wood products.
Mining - asbestos, iron ore.
Money
Basic unit - lilangeni (plural spelled emalangeni).
Flag
Five horizontal stripes. The top and bottom stripes are blue (for peace). The wide centre stripe is red (for past battles) with a black and white shield, spears, and staff. Between the blue and red stripes are yellow stripes (for natural resources).


SWEDEN
Sweden is a prosperous industrial nation in northern Europe. The people of Sweden have developed highly prosperous industries based on their country's three most important natural resources - timber, iron ore, and water power.
The Swedish standard of living is one of the highest in the world. Sweden ranks among the leading European nations in the number of automobiles, telephones, and television sets it has in relation to its population. Another measure of the nation's prosperity is that Swedes spend more money per person on holidays than any other people in Europe. About a fifth of all Swedish families have country homes where they can enjoy spending weekends and holidays.
Sweden's way of life has often been called the "middle way," because it combines private enterprise with a government that greatly influences the development of the economy. The Swedish government operates one of the most far-reaching social security systems in the world.
The government of Sweden provides free education and largely free medical service. It pays pensions to old people, widows, and orphans. After most Swedes retire, they receive annual pensions of about 65 percent of their average earnings during their 15 highest paid years. The government also provides health insurance and financial aid for housing.
Sweden is one of the largest European countries in area. However, Sweden is also one of the most thinly populated European nations. Forests of such trees as spruce and pine cover more than half of Sweden, and only about a tenth of the country is farmland. Sweden is also a land of beautiful lakes, snow-capped mountains, swift rivers, and rocky offshore islands.
Stockholm, Sweden's largest city, stands on the coast of the Baltic Sea and includes small offshore islands. Almost a sixth of the people of Sweden live in Stockholm or its suburbs.
The northern seventh of Sweden lies inside the Arctic Circle in a region called the Land of the Midnight Sun. There, for periods during the summer, the sun shines 24 hours a day. Above the Arctic Circle is part of a wilderness called Lapland. Lapland extends into Finland, Norway, and Russia. For hundreds of years, people called Lapps have led a wandering life tending their herds of reindeer.
Sweden, together with Denmark and Norway, is one of the Scandinavian countries. Swedes, Danes, and Norwegians speak similar languages and can usually understand each other. The three Scandinavian nations have close economic and cultural ties.
Official Name
Konungariket Sverige (Kingdom of Sweden).
Area
173,732 sq. mi. (449,964 sq. km).
Greatest distances
north-south, 977 mi. (1,572 km);
east-west, 310 mi. (499 km).
Coastline - 4,700 mi. (7,564 km).
Elevation
Highest - Mount Kebnekaise, 6,926 ft. (2,111 m) above sea level.
Lowest - sea level along the coast.
Population
Estimated 1996 population - 8,813,000; density, 51 persons per sq. mi. (20 per sq. km); distribution, 85 percent urban, 15 percent rural. 1990 census - 8,587,353. Estimated 2001 population - 9,007,000.
Chief Products
Agriculture - barley, beef cattle, hogs, milk and other dairy products, oats, potatoes, rye, sugar beets, wheat.
Forestry - birch, pine, spruce.
Manufacturing - agricultural machinery, aircraft, automobiles, ball bearings, diesel motors, electrical equipment, explosives, fertilisers, furniture, glass, matches, paper and cardboard, plastics, plywood, precision tools, prefabricated houses, ships, steel, steelware, telephones, textiles, wood pulp.
Mining - copper, gold, iron ore, lead, zinc.
National Anthem
"Du gamla, du fria, du fjallhoga nord" ("Thou Ancient, Thou Free, Thou Mountain-Crowned North").
National Holiday
Flag Day, June 6.
Money
Basic unit--krona. One hundred ore equal one krona.
Capital city
Stockholm
886 miles from London
GMT +1 hour
International aircraft prefix
SE
International dialling code
00 46
Language
Swedish
Vehicle nationality plates
S
Embassy details
British Embassy
Skarpogatan 6/8
Box 27819
1115 93 Stockholm
Telehone (00 46) (8) 6713000
Opening hours 0900 to 1700 in winter, 0730 to 1530 in summer (local time)
email britishembassy@telia.com
National flag
Blue with a yellow cross


SWITZERLAND
Switzerland is a small European country known for its beautiful, snow-capped mountains and freedom-loving people. The Alps and the Jura Mountains cover more than half of Switzerland. But most of the Swiss people live on a plateau that extends across the middle of the country between the two mountain ranges. In this region are most of Switzerland's industries and its richest farmlands. Switzerland's capital, Bern, and largest city, Zurich, are also there.
The Swiss have a long tradition of freedom. About 700 years ago, people in what is now central Switzerland agreed to help each other stay free from foreign rule. Gradually, people in nearby areas joined them in what came to be known as the Swiss Confederation. Various Swiss groups speak different languages. Switzerland has three official languages - German, French, and Italian. The Latin name for Switzerland, Helvetia, appears on Swiss coins and postage stamps.
The Swiss show great pride in their long independence. Switzerland has no regular army, but almost all the men receive military training yearly. They keep their weapons and uniforms at home, and can be called up quickly in an emergency. Local marksmanship contests are held frequently.
In the early 1500's, Switzerland established a policy of not taking sides in the many wars that raged in Europe. During World Wars I and II, Switzerland remained an island of peace. Almost all the nations around it took part in the bloody struggles. Switzerland provided safety for thousands who fled from the fighting, or from political persecution. The nation's neutrality policy helped the Swiss develop valuable banking services to people of countries throughout the world, where banks are less safe. The League of Nations, the major world organisation of the 1920's and 1930's, had its headquarters in the Swiss city of Geneva. Today, many international organisations, including various United Nations agencies, have headquarters in Geneva.
Switzerland has limited natural resources, but it is a thriving industrial nation. Using imported raw materials, the Swiss manufacture high-quality goods including electrical equipment, machine tools, and watches. They also produce chemicals, drugs, chocolate, and cheese and other dairy products.
Official Names
Schweiz (in German), Suisse (in French), and Svizzera (in Italian).
Area
15,943 sq. mi. (41,293 sq. km), including 523 sq. mi. (1,355 sq. km) of inland water.
Greatest distances
east-west, 213 mi. (343 km);
north-south, 138 mi. (222 km).
Elevation
Highest - Dufourspitze of Monte Rosa, 15,203 ft. (4,634 m) above sea level.
Lowest - shore of Lake Maggiore, 633 ft. (193 m) above sea level.
Population
Estimated 1996 population - 6,995,000; density, 439 persons per sq. mi. (169 per sq. km); distribution, 64 percent urban, 36 percent rural. 1990 census - 6,873,687. Estimated 2001 population - 7,190,000.
Chief Products
Agriculture - dairy products, fruits, potatoes, sugar beets, wheat.
Manufacturing - chemicals, drugs, electrical equipment, machine tools, precision instruments, processed foods, textiles, watches, wine.
National Anthem
"Swiss Psalm."
Capital city
Bern
462 miles from London
GMT +1 hour
International aircraft prefix
HB
International dialling code
00 41
Currency
Swiss Franc (CHF)
Language
German, French, Italian and Romansch
Vehicle nationality plates
CH
National holidays
1 August - Anniversary of the Founding of the Confederation
Embassy details
British Embassy
Thunstrasse 50
3005 Berne
Telephone (00 41) (31) 3597700
Opening hours 0830 to 1230/1330 to 1700 (local time)
email information@british-embassy-berne.ch
National flag
Red square with a white cross in the centre


SYRIA
Syria is an Arab country at the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea. It is a land of rolling plains, fertile river valleys, and barren deserts. Damascus is Syria's largest city.
Syria is an extremely ancient land with a rich cultural heritage. Some of the oldest known civilisations grew up there. One of the world's first alphabets was developed in Syria, and Syrian artists and scholars greatly influenced the cultures of ancient Greece and Rome.
Syria lies along major trade routes linking Africa, Asia, and Europe. Camel caravans followed these routes more than 4,000 years ago carrying goods between Asia and Mediterranean ports. Such Syrian cities as Damascus and Aleppo grew up along the caravan routes and became centers of world trade as early as 2000 B.C.
Syrians have also profited from agriculture. The country is located at the western end of a rich farmland that is called the Fertile Crescent. Farmers raise chiefly cotton and wheat on the rich Syrian plains.
Most Syrians are Muslim Arabs, but the population also includes several ethnic and religious minorities. About a fourth of all workers are farmers. Syrian industries are expanding, and many rural people have moved to the cities to seek industrial jobs.
Official name
Al-Jumhuria Al-Arabia Al-Suria (The Syrian Arab Republic).
Area
71,498 sq. mi. (185,180 sq. km).
Greatest distances
east-west, 515 mi. (829 km);
north-south, 465 mi. (748 km).
Coastline - 94 mi. (151 km).
Elevation
Highest - Mount Hermon, 9,232 ft. (2,814 m) above sea level.
Lowest - sea level along the coast.
Population
Estimated 1996 population - 15,283,000; density, 214 persons per sq. mi. (83 persons per sq. km); distribution, 52 percent urban, 48 percent rural. 1981 census - 9,046,144. Estimated 2001 population - 18,125,000.
Chief products
Agriculture - cotton, wheat, barley, milk, grapes, sugar beets.
Manufacturing - textiles, fertiliser, petroleum products, cement, glass, processed foods.
Mining - petroleum, phosphates.
National anthem
"Homat El Diyar" ("Guardians of the Homeland").
Capital city
Damascus
2196 miles from London
GMT +2 hours
International aircraft prefix
YK
International dialling code
00 963
Currency
Syrian Pound (SYP)
Language
Arabic, Kurdish, Armenian and Aramaic
National holidays
17 April - National Day
Embassy details
British Embassy
Kotob Building
11 Mohammad Kurd Ali Street
Malki
P O Box 37
Damascus
Telephone (00 963) (11) 3739241/2/3/7
Opening hours 0800 to 1515 Sunday to Wednesday, 0800 to 1400 Thursday (local time)
National flag
3 equal horizontal bands of red, white and black with two small green 5-pointed stars in a line centred in the white band


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This page (internats.html) was last modified on Thursday 26/07/2012