Sovereign: King Albert II (1993)

Prime Minister: Yves Leterme (2009)

Land area: 11,672 sq mi (30,230 sq km); total area: 11,787 sq mi (30,528 sq km)

Population (2009 est.): 10,414,336 (growth rate: 0.1%); birth rate: 10.1/1000; infant mortality rate: 4.4/1000; life expectancy: 79.2; density per sq km: 343

Capital and largest city (2003 est.): Brussels, 1,750,600 (metro area), 981,200 (city proper)

Other large cities: Antwerp, 952,600 (metro area), 450,000 (city proper); Ghent, 226,900; Charleroi, 201,200; Liège, 185,700; Bruges, 117,200

Monetary unit: Euro (formerly Belgian franc)

National name: Royaume de Belgique—Koninkrijk België

Languages: Dutch (Flemish) 60%, French 40%, German less than 1% (all official)

Ethnicity/race: Fleming 58%, Walloon 31%, mixed or other 11%

Religion: Roman Catholic 75%, Protestant or other 25%

National Holiday: Ascension to the Throne of King Leopold I, July 21

Literacy rate: 99% (2003 est.)

Economic summary: GDP/PPP (2007 est.): $376 billion; per capita $35,300. Real growth rate: 2.7%. Inflation: 1.8%. Unemployment: 7.5%. Arable land: 27.42%. Agriculture: sugar beets, fresh vegetables, fruits, grain, tobacco; beef, veal, pork, milk. Labor force: 4.77 million; agriculture 1.3%, industry 24.5%, services 74.2% (2003 est.). Industries: engineering and metal products, motor vehicle assembly, transportation equipment, scientific instruments, processed food and beverages, chemicals, basic metals, textiles, glass, petroleum. Natural resources: construction materials, silica sand, carbonates. Exports: $269.6 billion f.o.b. (2005 est.): machinery and equipment, chemicals, diamonds, metals and metal products, foodstuffs. Imports: $264.5 billion f.o.b. (2005 est.): machinery and equipment, chemicals, diamonds, pharmaceuticals, foodstuffs, transportation equipment, oil products. Major trading partners: Germany, France, Netherlands, UK, U.S., Italy, Ireland (2004).

Communications: Telephones: main lines in use: 4.801 million (2004); mobile cellular: 9,131,700 (2004).  

Radio broadcast stations: FM 79, AM 7, shortwave 1 (1998). 

Television broadcast stations: 25 (plus 10 repeaters) (1997).  

Internet hosts: 2,238,900 (2005). Internet users: 5.1 million (2005).

Transportation: Railways: total: 3,521 km (2,927 km electrified) (2004).
Highways: total: 149,757 km; paved: 117,110 km (including 1,747 km of expressways); unpaved: 32,647 km (2003).  

Waterways: 2,043 km (1,528 km in regular commercial use) (2003).
Ports and harbors: Antwerp, Brussels, Gent, Liege, Oostende, Zeebrugge.  

Airports: 43 (2005).

International disputes: none.

Prime Minister Verhofstadt resigned in June 2007, after his coalition of liberals and socialists took a drubbing in a general election. He remained in office as caretaker prime minister for more than six months, however, as talks between Flemish-speaking and French-speaking parties on forming a government reached a deadlock, leaving the country in political crisis. At King Albert II's request, Verhofstadt formed an interim coalition government in December 2007.

In the 1990s Belgium’s public life was shaken by a number of serious scandals. In 1991, a former deputy prime minister and socialist leader was murdered in a contract killing that took several years to come to light.

The Dutroux child-sex-and-murder affair in 1996 led to national outrage, compounded by the realization that less official negligence and inefficiency could have saved the lives of several children. The tragedy fueled pressure for reform of the political, judicial, and police systems.


Located in western Europe, Belgium has about 40 mi of seacoast on the North Sea, at the Strait of Dover, and is approximately the size of Maryland. The Meuse and the Schelde, Belgium's principal rivers, are important commercial arteries.

Despite the close ties of Russia and Belarus, the two countries clashed over imported Russian gas in early 2007. In Dec. 2006, Russia doubled the price of gas it exported to Belarus, and then imposed a large duty on oil exports. In response, Belarus imposed a tax on Russian gas in Jan. 2007.

Russia then shut off an oil export pipeline to Europe (which spelled trouble for Europe, since half of all European exports of Russian gas are transported through Belarus). By mid-January, Russia agreed to cut its oil duty and Belarus agreed to cut its tax.

In September 2008, President Alyaksandr Lukashenka won all 110 seats in parliamentary elections, but European monitors criticized the flawed counting system in Belarus.
Belarus declared its sovereignty in July 1990 and its independence in Aug. 1991. It became a cofounder of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) in Dec. 1991. In Jan. 1994, the country's parliament ousted its reform-minded leader, Stanislav Shushkevich, in protest against his support for market economics.

He was replaced by Alyaksandr Lukashenka, who, over the next two years, greatly expanded the powers of the presidency. Lukashenka sought to renew ties with Russia, and, with much fanfare, Belarus and Russia signed a treaty in April 1997 aimed at significantly increasing cooperation between the two states, stopping just short of union. The Russian financial crisis that began in fall 1998 severely affected Belarus's Soviet-style planned economy.

Republic of Belarus
President: Alyaksandr Lukashenka (1994)

Prime Minister: Syarhey Sidorski (2003)


Much of Belarus (formerly the Belorussian Soviet Socialist Republic of the USSR, and then Byelorussia) is a hilly lowland with forests, swamps, and numerous rivers and lakes. There are wide rivers emptying into the Baltic and Black seas. Its forests cover over one-third of the land and its peat marshes are a valuable natural resource. The largest lake is Narach, 31 sq mi (79.6 sq km).

Sovereign: Queen Elizabeth II (1952)

Governor-General: Sir Clifford Husbands (1996)

Prime Minister: David Thompson (2008)

Land area: 166 sq mi (430 sq km); total area 166 sq mi (431 sq km)

Population (2009 est.): 284,589 (growth rate: 0.3%); birth rate: 12.5/1000; infant mortality rate: 12.3/1000; life expectancy: 73.9; density per sq km: 654

Capital and largest city (2003 est.): Bridgetown, 98,900

Monetary unit: Barbados dollar

Language: English

Ethnicity/race: black 90%, white 4%, Asian and mixed 6%

Religions: Protestant 67% (Anglican 40%, Pentecostal 8%, Methodist 7%, other 12%), Roman Catholic 4%, none 17%, other 12%

National Holiday: Independence Day, November 30

Literacy rate: 97% (1995 est.)

Economic summary: GDP/PPP (2005 est.): $4.841 billion; per capita: $17,400. Real growth rate: 2.5%. Inflation: –0.5% (2003 est.). Unemployment: 10.7% (2003 est.). Arable land: 37.21%. Agriculture: sugarcane, vegetables, cotton. Labor force: 128,500 (2001 est.); services 75%, industry 15%, agriculture 10% (1996 est.). Industries: tourism, sugar, light manufacturing, component assembly for export. Natural resources: petroleum, fish, natural gas. Exports: $209 million (2004 est): sugar and molasses, rum, other foods and beverages, chemicals, electrical components. Imports: $1.476 billion (2004 est.): consumer goods, machinery, foodstuffs, construction materials, chemicals, fuel, electrical components. Major trading partners: U.S., UK, Trindad and Tobago, St. Lucia, Jamaica, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Japan (2004).

Member of Commonwealth of Nations
Communications: Telephones: main lines in use: 135,700 (2004); mobile cellular: 200,100 (2004).
Radio broadcast stations: AM 2, FM 6, shortwave 0 (2004).  

Television broadcast stations: 1 (plus two cable channels) (2004). Internet hosts: 241 (2005).  

Internet users: 150,000 (2005).

Transportation: Railways: 0 km.  

Highways: total: 1,600 km; paved: 1,600 km (2003).

Ports and harbors: Bridgetown.  

Airports: 1 (2005).

International disputes: in 2005, Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago agreed to compulsory international arbitration that will result in a binding award challenging whether the northern limit of Trinidad and Tobago's and Venezuela's maritime boundary extends into Barbadian waters and the southern limit of Barbadian traditional fishing; joins other Caribbean states to counter Venezuela's claim that Aves Island sustains human habitation, a criterion under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), which permits Venezuela to extend its EEZ/continental shelf over a large portion of the Caribbean Sea


An island in the Atlantic about 300 mi (483 km) north of Venezuela, Barbados is only 21 mi long (34 km) and 14 mi across (23 km) at its widest point. It is circled by fine beaches and narrow coastal plains. The highest point is Mount Hillaby (1,105 ft; 337 m) in the north-central area.

President: Iajuddin Ahmed (2002)

Prime Minister: Sheikh Hasina (2009)

Land area: 51,703 sq mi (133,911 sq km); total area: 55,598 sq mi (144,000 sq km)

Population (2009 est.): 156,050,883 (growth rate: 1.2%); birth rate: 24.6/1000; infant mortality rate: 59.0/1000; life expectancy: 60.2; density per sq km: 1,146

Capital and largest city (2003 est.): Dhaka, 12,560,000 (metro.area), 5,378,023 (city proper)

Other large cities: Chittagong, 2,592,400; Khulna, 1,211,500

Monetary unit: Taka

Principal languages: Bangla (official), English

Ethnicity/race: Bengali 98%, tribal groups, non-Bengali Muslims (1998)

Religions: Islam 83%, Hindu 16%, other 1% (1998)

National Holiday: Independence Day, March 26

Literacy rate: 43% (2003 est.)

Economic summary: GDP/PPP (2005 est.): $301.4 billion; per capita $2,100. Real growth rate: 5.4%. Inflation: 6.7%. Unemployment: 2.5% (includes underemployment). Arable land: 55.39%. Agriculture: rice, jute, tea, wheat, sugarcane, potatoes, tobacco, pulses, oilseeds, spices, fruit; beef, milk, poultry. Labor force: 66.6 million; note: extensive export of labor to Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, UAE, Oman, Qatar, and Malaysia; agriculture 63%, industry 11%, services 26% (FY95/96). Industries: cotton textiles, jute, garments, tea processing, paper newsprint, cement, chemical fertilizer, light engineering, sugar. Natural resources: natural gas, arable land, timber, coal. Exports: $9.372 billion (2005 est.): garments, jute and jute goods, leather, frozen fish and seafood (2001). Imports: $12.97 billion (2005 est.): machinery and equipment, chemicals, iron and steel, textiles, foodstuffs, petroleum products, cement (2000). Major trading partners: U.S., Germany, UK, France, Italy, India, China, Singapore, Kuwait, Japan, Hong Kong (2004).

Member of Commonwealth of Nations
Communications: Telephones: main lines in use: 831,000 (2004); mobile cellular: 2,781,600 (2004).  

Radio broadcast stations: AM 15, FM 13, shortwave 2 (2006)  

Television broadcast stations: 15 (1999).  

Internet hosts: 266 (2005). Internet users: 300,000 (2005).

Transportation: Railways: total: 2,706 km (2004).  

Highways: total: 239,226 km; paved: 22,726 km; unpaved: 216,500 km (2003).  

Waterways: 8,372 km; note: includes 2,635 km main cargo routes (2005).
Ports and harbors: Chittagong, Mongla Port. Airports: 16 (2005).

International disputes: discussions with India remain stalled to delimit a small section of river boundary, exchange 162 miniscule enclaves in both countries, allocate divided villages, and stop illegal cross-border trade, migration, violence, and transit of terrorists through the porous border; Bangladesh resists India's attempts to fence or wall off high-traffic sections of the porous boundary; a joint Bangladesh-India boundary inspection in 2005 revealed 92 pillars are missing; dispute with India over New Moore/South Talpatty/Purbasha Island in the Bay of Bengal deters maritime boundary delimitation; Burmese Muslim refugees strain Bangladesh's meager resources

Violence erupted in Oct. 2006, when Zia's term ended and President Ahmed took over as the head of a caretaker administration. An alliance of parties, headed by the Awami League, said it would boycott the Jan. 2007 elections, alleging corruption in the electoral commission.

The violence intensified in Jan. 2007, prompting President Ahmed to declare a state of emergency and postpone the elections. Fakhruddin Ahmed became the interim head of the government. He swiftly opened a broad corruption investigation that resulted in the imprisonment of dozens of prominent officials, the seizure of luxury vehicles, and the freezing of bank accounts.

Tension between East and West Pakistan existed from the outset because of their vast geographic, economic, and cultural differences. East Pakistan's Awami League, a political party founded by the Bengali nationalist Sheik Mujibur Rahman in 1949, sought independence from West Pakistan.

Although 56% of the population resided in East Pakistan, the West held the lion's share of political and economic power. In 1970, East Pakistanis secured a majority of the seats in the national assembly. President Yahya Khan postponed the opening of the national assembly in an attempt to circumvent East Pakistan's demand for greater autonomy.


Bangladesh, on the northern coast of the Bay of Bengal, is surrounded by India, with a small common border with Myanmar in the southeast. The country is low-lying riverine land traversed by the many branches and tributaries of the Ganges and Brahmaputra rivers. Tropical monsoons and frequent floods and cyclones inflict heavy damage in the delta region.

Bahrain has been an important Western ally, serving as a Western air base during the Persian Gulf War in 1991 and the Iraq War in 2003. It continues to serve as the base of the United States' Fifth Fleet, which patrols the Gulf.

The emir, Sheik Isa ibn Sulman al-Khalifah, died in 1999 after four decades of rule. He was succeeded by his son, Sheik Hamad ibn Isa al-Khalifah, who gave himself the title of king but also began a sweeping democratization of the country: censorship has been relaxed and draconian laws repealed, exiles have been repatriated, and the stateless Bidoons have been granted citizenship.

King: Hamad ibn Isa al-Khalifah (1999)
Prime Minister: Khalifah ibn Sulman al-Khalifah (1970)

Land area: 239 sq mi (619 sq km); total area: 257 sq mi (665 sq km)

Population (2009 est.): 727,785 (growth rate: 1.2%); birth rate: 17.0/1000; infant mortality rate: 15.2/1000; life expectancy: 75.1; density per sq km: 1,080

Capital and largest city (2003 est.): Al-Manámah, 527,000 (metro area), 149,900 (city proper)

Monetary unit: Bahrain dinar

National Name: Mamlakat al Bahrayn

Languages: Arabic, English, Farsi, Urdu

Ethnicity/race: Bahraini 62.4%, non-Bahraini 37.6% (2001)

Religion: Islam (Shiite and Sunni) 81%, Christian 9%

 National Holiday: National Day, December 16

Literacy rate: 89% (2003 est.)

Economic summary: GDP/PPP (2005 est): $14.11 billion; per capita $20,500. Real growth rate: 5.9%. Inflation: 2.7%. Unemployment: 15%. Arable land: 2.82%. Agriculture: fruit, vegetables; poultry, dairy products; shrimp, fish. Labor force: 380,000; note: 44% of the population in the 15–64 age group is non-national; agriculture 1%, industry, commerce, and services 79%, government 20% (1997 est.). Industries: petroleum processing and refining, aluminum smelting, iron pelletization, fertilizers, offshore banking, ship repairing, tourism. Natural resources: oil, associated and nonassociated natural gas, fish, pearls. Exports: $11.17 billion (2005 est.): petroleum and petroleum products, aluminum, textiles. Imports: $7.83 billion (2005 est.): crude oil, machinery, chemicals. Major trading partners: Saudi Arabia, U.S., UAE, Japan, Germany, UK, France (2004).

Communications: Telephones: main lines in use: 191,600 (2004); mobile cellular: 649,800 (2004).
Radio broadcast stations: AM 2, FM 3, shortwave 0 (1998).
Television broadcast stations: 4 (1997).
Internet hosts: 1,952 (2005). Internet users: 152,700 (2005).

Transportation: Railways: 0 km.
Highways: total: 3,498 km; paved: 2,768 km; unpaved: 730 km (2003).
Ports and harbors: Mina' Salman, Sitrah. Airports: 3 (2005).

International disputes: none.


Bahrain, which means “two seas,” is an archipelago in the Persian Gulf off the coast of Saudi Arabia. The islands for the most part are level expanses of sand and rock. A causeway connects Bahrain to Saudi Arabia.

Once heavily reliant on agriculture and fishing, the Bahamas has diversified its economy into tourism, financial services, and international shipping. While the nation enjoys a per capita income that is among the top 30 in the world, there is a big gap between the urban middle class and poor farmers. In addition, the nation is vulnerable to hurricanes, which regularly inflict serious damage.

Hubert Ingraham became prime minister in May 2007 after his Free National Movement, an opposition party, won parliamentary elections.

Sovereign: Queen Elizabeth II (1952)

Governor-General: Arthur Dion Hanna (2006)

Prime Minister: Hubert Ingraham (2007)


The Bahamas are an archipelago of about 700 islands and 2,400 uninhabited islets and cays lying 50 mi off the east coast of Florida. They extend for about 760 mi (1,223 km).

Only about 30 of the islands are inhabited; the most important is New Providence (80 sq mi; 207 sq km), on which the capital, Nassau, is situated. Other islands include Grand Bahama, Abaco, Eleuthera, Andros, Cat Island, and San Salvador (or Watling's Island).


Azerbaijan is located on the western shore of the Caspian Sea at the southeast extremity of the Caucasus. The region is a mountainous country, and only about 7% of it is arable land. The Kura River Valley is the area's major agricultural zone.

The country's economic troubles are expected to be transformed through Western investment in Azerbaijan's oil resources, an untapped reserve whose estimated worth is trillions of dollars. Since 1994, the Azerbaijan state oil company (SOCAR) has signed several billion-dollar agreements with international oil companies.

Azerbaijan's pro-Western stance and its careful economic management have made it the most attractive of the oil-rich Caspian countries for foreign investment. In the years since its independence, the country has undergone rapid privatization, and the IMF gave it high marks as one of the most successful economic overhauls ever.

Republic of Azerbaijan
President: Ilham Aliyev (2003)

Prime Minister: Artur Rasizade (2003)

 On July 7, 2008, the Austrian government collapsed after months of struggling between the two major political parties, the Social Democratic Party and the People's Party. Elections are expected to be held in September.

The chancellor, Alfred Gusenbauer, announced that he would not run for reelection. The new Social Democratic Party leader and transport minister, Werner Faymann, will be the Social Democrat candidate.

In Sept. 2002, the coalition between the People's Party and the Freedom Party dissolved after a shake-up in the Freedom Party, instigated by Haider. In Nov. 2002, the People's Party made large gains in general elections.

After failed coalition talks with other parties, the People's Party again formed a government with the Freedom Party in Feb. 2003. A government plan to overhaul the country's pension program led to widespread strikes in May and June 2003—the first national strikes in decades.

President: Heinz Fischer (2004)

Chancellor: Alfred Gusenbauer (2007)

Land area: 31,942 sq mi (82,730 sq km); total area: 32,382 sq mi (83,870 sq km)


Slightly smaller than Maine, Austria includes much of the mountainous territory of the eastern Alps (about 75% of the area). The country contains many snowfields, glaciers, and snowcapped peaks, the highest being the Grossglockner (12,530 ft; 3,819 m). The Danube is the principal river. Forests and woodlands cover about 40% of the land.

Sovereign: Queen Elizabeth II (1952)

Governor-General: Quentin Bryce (2008)

Prime Minister: Kevin Rudd (2007)

Prime Minister Howard sent 2,000 Australian troops to fight alongside American and British troops in the 2003 Iraq war, despite strong opposition among Australians.

In July 2003, Australia successfully restored order to the Solomon Islands, which had descended into lawlessness during a brutal civil war.

Australia fought alongside Britain in World War I, notably with the Australia and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) in the Dardanelles campaign (1915). Participation in World War II helped Australia forge closer ties to the United States.

Parliamentary power in the second half of the 20th century shifted between three political parties: the Australian Labour Party, the Liberal Party, and the National Party. Australia relaxed its discriminatory immigration laws in the 1960s and 1970s, which favored Northern Europeans.


The continent of Australia, with the island state of Tasmania, is approximately equal in area to the United States (excluding Alaska and Hawaii). Mountain ranges run from north to south along the east coast, reaching their highest point in Mount Kosciusko (7,308 ft; 2,228 m).

The western half of the continent is occupied by a desert plateau that rises into barren, rolling hills near the west coast. The Great Barrier Reef, extending about 1,245 mi (2,000 km), lies along the northeast coast. The island of Tasmania (26,178 sq mi; 67,800 sq km) is off the southeast coast.

After the Turkish defeat in World War I, the independent Republic of Armenia was established on May 28, 1918, but survived only until Nov. 29, 1920, when it was annexed by the Soviet army.

On March 12, 1922, the Soviets joined Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan to form the Transcaucasian Soviet Socialist Republic, which became part of the USSR. In 1936, after a reorganization, Armenia became a separate constituent republic of the USSR. Armenia declared its independence from the collapsing Soviet Union on Sept. 23, 1991.

President: Serzh Sarkisyan (2008)

Prime Minister: Tigran Sarkisyan (2008)

Land area: 11,506 sq mi (29,800 sq km); total area: 11,506 sq mi (29,800 sq km)

Population (2009 est.): 2,967,004 (growth rate: -0.03%); birth rate: 12.6/1000; infant mortality rate: 20.2/1000; life expectancy: 72.6; density per sq mi: 258

Capital and largest city (2003 est.): Yerevan, 1,462,700 (metro. area), 1,267,600 (city proper)

Other large cities: Vanadzor, 147,400; Gyumri (Leninakan), 125,300; Abovian, 59,300

Monetary unit: Dram

National Name: Hayastani Hanrapetut'yun

Current government officials
Languages: Armenian 98%, Yezidi, Russian

Ethnicity/race: Armenian 97.9%, Russian 0.5%, Kurds 1.3%, other 0.3% (2001)

Religion: Armenian Apostolic 95%, other Christian 4%, Yezidi 1%

National Holiday: Independence Day, September 21

Literacy rate: 99.4% (2001 est.)

Economic summary: GDP/PPP (2007 est.): $16.83 billion; per capita $5,700. Real growth rate: 13.7%. Inflation: 6.6%. Unemployment: 7.1% (2007 est.). Arable land: 16.78%. Agriculture: fruit (especially grapes), vegetables; livestock. Labor force: 1.2 million; agriculture 46.2%, industry 15.6%, services 38.2% (2006 est). Industries: diamond processing, metal-cutting machine tools, forging-pressing machines, electric motors, tires, knitted wear, hosiery, shoes, silk fabric, chemicals, trucks, instruments, microelectronics, jewelry manufacturing, software development, food processing, brandy. Natural resources: small deposits of gold, copper, molybdenum, zinc, alumina. Exports: $1.157 billion f.o.b. (2007): diamonds, mineral products, foodstuffs, energy. Imports: $3.281 billion f.o.b. (2007 est.): natural gas, petroleum, tobacco products, foodstuffs, diamonds. Major trading partners: Russia, Ukraine, Belgium, Turkmenistan, Italy, Germany, Iran, Israel, U.S.%, Georgia (2006)

Communications: Telephones: main lines in use: 594,400 (2005); mobile cellular: 318,000 (2005).
Radio broadcast stations: AM 9, FM 16, shortwave 1 (2006).  

Television broadcast stations: 48 (private television stations alongside 2 public networks; major Russian channels widely available) (2006).  

Internet hosts: 8,270 (2007). Internet users: 172,800 (2006).

Transportation: Railways: total: 839 km (2006)

Highways: total: 7,700 km; paved: 7,700 km (includes 1,561 km of expressways) (2006).  

Waterways: n.a. Ports and harbors: none. Airports: 12 (2007).

International disputes: Armenia supports ethnic Armenian secessionists in Nagorno-Karabakh and since the early 1990s, has militarily occupied 16% of Azerbaijan - Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) continues to mediate dispute; over 800,000 mostly ethnic Azerbaijanis were driven from the occupied lands and Armenia; about 230,000 ethnic Armenians were driven from their homes in Azerbaijan into Armenia; Azerbaijan seeks transit route through Armenia to connect to Naxcivan exclave; border with Turkey remains closed over Nagorno-Karabakh dispute; ethnic Armenian groups in Javakheti region of Georgia seek greater autonomy; Armenians continue to emigrate, primarily to Russia, seeking employment.


Armenia is located in the southern Caucasus and is the smallest of the former Soviet republics. It is bounded by Georgia on the north, Azerbaijan on the east, Iran on the south, and Turkey on the west. Contemporary Armenia is a fraction of the size of ancient Armenia. A land of rugged mountains and extinct volcanoes, its highest point is Mount Aragats, 13,435 ft (4,095 m).

President: Cristina Fernández de Kirchner (2007) 

Land area: 1,056,636 sq mi (2,736,690 sq km); total area: 1,068,296 sq mi (2,766,890 sq km)

Population (2009 est.): 40,913,584 (growth rate: 1.0%); birth rate: 17.9/1000; infant mortality rate: 11.4/1000; life expectancy: 76.5; density per sq mi: 38
Peronist Néstor Kirchner, the former governor of Santa Cruz, became Argentina's president in May 2003, after former president Carlos Menem abandoned the race. Kirchner vowed to aggressively reform the courts, police, and armed services and to prosecute perpetrators of the dirty war.

Argentina's economy has been rebounding since its near collapse in 2001, with an impressive growth rate of about 8% since Kirchner took office. In March 2005, Kirchner announced that the country's debt had been successfully restructured. In Jan. 2006, Argentina paid off its remaining multi-million IMF debt early, a dramatic move that not all economists thought was beneficial.

In Dec. 1999, Fernando de la Rua became president. Despite the introduction of several tough economic austerity plans, by 2001 the recession had slid into its third year. The IMF gave Argentina $13.7 billion in emergency aid in Jan. 2001 and $8 billion in Aug. 2001.

The international help was not enough, however, and by the end of 2001, Argentina was on the verge of economic collapse. Rioters protesting government austerity measures forced De la Rua to resign in Dec. 2001. Argentina then defaulted on its $155 billion foreign debt payments, the largest such default in history.

The military began the "dirty war" to restore order and eradicate its opponents. The Argentine Commission for Human Rights, in Geneva, has charged the junta with 2,300 political murders, over 10,000 political arrests, and the disappearance of 20,000 to 30,000 people. The economy remained in chaos. In March 1981, Videla was deposed by Field Marshal Roberto Viola, who in turn was succeeded by Lt. Gen. Leopoldo Galtieri.

On April 2, 1982, Galtieri invaded the British-held Falkland Islands, known as Las Islas Malvinas in Spanish, in what was seen as an attempt to increase his popularity. Great Britain, however, won a decisive victory, and Galtieri resigned in disgrace three days after Argentina's surrender. Maj. Gen. Reynaldo Bignone took over June 14, amid increasing pro-democratic public sentiment. As the 1983 elections approached, inflation hit 900% and Argentina's crippling foreign debt reached unprecedented levels.


Second in South America only to Brazil in size and population, Argentina is a plain, rising from the Atlantic to the Chilean border and the towering Andes peaks. Aconcagua (22,834 ft, 6,960 m) is the highest peak in the world outside Asia. Argentina is also bordered by Bolivia and Paraguay on the north, and by Uruguay and Brazil on the east.

The northern area is the swampy and partly wooded Gran Chaco, bordering Bolivia and Paraguay. South of that are the rolling, fertile Pampas, which are rich in agriculture and sheep- and cattle-grazing and support most of the population. Further south is Patagonia, a region of cool, arid steppes with some wooded and fertile sections.

In March 2004, the Bird political dynasty came to an end when labor activist Baldwin Spencer defeated Lester Bird, who had been prime minister since 1994. In 2005, income tax, which had been eliminated in 1975, was reintroduced to help alleviate Antigua's deficit.

On July 17, 2007, Louise Lake-Tack became the first woman governor-general of Antigua and Barbuda.


Antigua, the larger of the two main islands, is 108 sq mi (280 sq km). The island dependencies of Redonda (an uninhabited rocky islet) and Barbuda (a coral island formerly known as Dulcina) are 0.5 sq mi (1.30 sq km) and 62 sq mi (161 sq km), respectively.

Sovereign: Queen Elizabeth II (1952)

Governor-General: Louise Lake-Tack (2007)

Prime Minister: Baldwin Spencer (2004)

Total area: 170 sq mi (440 sq km)

Population (2009 est.): 85,632 (growth rate: 1.3%); birth rate: 16.6/1000; infant mortality rate: 16.2/1000; life expectancy: 74.76; density per sq mi: 409

Capital and largest city (2003 est.): St. John's, 23,500

Other large cities: English Harbour, 2,900; Codrington (capital of Barbuda), est. pop. 870

Monetary unit: East Caribbean dollar

Languages: English (official), local dialects

Ethnicity/race: black 91%, mixed 4.4%, white 1.7%, other 2.9%

Religions: Christian (predominantly Anglican and other Protestant; some Roman Catholic)

National Holiday: Independence Day (National Day), November 1

Literacy rate: 85.8% (2003 est.)

Economic summary: GDP/PPP (2007 est.): $1.189 billion; per capita $10,900 (2005 est.). Real growth rate: 3.8% (2007 est.). Inflation: 2.8% (2007 est.). Unemployment: 11% (2001 est.). Arable land: 18.18%. Agriculture: cotton, fruits, vegetables, bananas, coconuts, cucumbers, mangoes, sugarcane; livestock. Labor force: 30,000 (1991); agriculture: 3.8%, industry: 22%, services: 74.3% (2002 est.). Industries: tourism, construction, light manufacturing (clothing, alcohol, household appliances). Natural resources: negl.; pleasant climate fosters tourism. Exports: $84.3 million (2007 est.): petroleum products 48%, manufactures 23%, machinery and transport equipment 17%, food and live animals 4%, other 8%. Imports: $522.8 million (2007 est.): ffood and live animals, machinery and transport equipment, manufactures, chemicals, oil. Major trading partners: Poland, UK, Germany, Italy, China, U.S., Singapore, Spain, Trinidad and Tobago (2006).

Member of Commonwealth of Nations
Communications: Telephones: main lines in use: 40,000 (2006); mobile cellular: 102,000 (2006). Radio broadcast stations: AM 4, FM 2, shortwave 0 (1998). Television broadcast stations: 2 (1997). Internet hosts: 2,133 (2007). Internet users: 32,000 (2006).

Transportation: Highways: total: 1,165 km, paved: 384 km, unpaved: 781 km (2002). 

Ports and harbors: Saint John's.  

Airports: 3 (2007).

International disputes: none.

President: José Eduardo dos Santos (1979)

Prime Minister: Fernando da Piedade Dias dos Santos (2003) 

On Feb. 22, 2002, government troops killed Jonas Savimbi, and six weeks later, on April 4, rebel leaders signed a cease-fire deal with the government, signaling the end of 30 years of civil war. While peace finally seemed secure, more than a half-million Angolans were faced with starvation.

Following World War II, independence movements began but were sternly suppressed by Portuguese military forces. The major nationalist organizations were the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA), a Marxist party; National Front for the Liberation of Angola (FNLA); and the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA).

After 14 years of war, Portugal finally granted independence to Angola in 1975. The MPLA, which had led the independence movement, has controlled the government ever since. But no period of peace followed Angola's long war for independence. UNITA disputed the MPLA's ascendancy, and civil war broke out almost immediately.


Angola, more than three times the size of California, extends for more than 1,000 mi (1,609 km) along the South Atlantic in southwest Africa. The Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Republic of Congo are to the north and east, Zambia is to the east, and Namibia is to the south. A plateau averaging 6,000 ft (1,829 m) above sea level rises abruptly from the coastal lowlands. Nearly all the land is desert or savanna, with hardwood forests in the northeast.

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