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Falkland Islands primer

* Legal name: Colony of the Falkland Islands.

* Capital: Stanley.

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* Geography: 200 islands, mostly uninhabited, with total area of 4,618 square miles (slightly smaller than Connecticut). Located about 400 miles east of Argentina in the South Atlantic. The two major islands are East Falkland and West Falkland which are seperated by the narrow Falkland Sound.

* Climate: Annual mean temperature: 43 F. The Weather is comparable to Scotland, although persistent high winds can make it less comfortable.

* Population: 1,800, of which 97% are of British descent.

* Language: English.

* Religion: Primarily Church of England.

* Education: Compulsory up to age 14.

* Legal system: English common law.

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* Economy: Agricultural, based almost exclusivily on the wool trade. The islands contain 600,000 sheep.

* Major trading partners: Great Britain (largest), Netherlands, Japan, Curacao.

* Monetary unit: Falkland Island pound = (US) $2.60.

* Value of the islands: Ownership of the islands could entitle a nation to mineral and fishing rights out to the 200-mile limit--an area equal to the size of Italy.

* History: Discovered by British seaman John Davis aboard the ship Desire in 1592. The islands were later named for Viscount Falkland, treasurer of the Royal Navy. Over the years, the islands were periodically settled by British, French and Spanish, many of them whalers. Various countries have claimed sovereignty over the centuries. In 1766, a French settlement was withdrawn under pressure from Spain. Four years later, Spaniards also threw out the British -- an action that almost led to war. In 1829, the Republic of Buenos Aires developed a colony there, but two years later the settlement was destroyed by an American warship after the local, Spanish-speaking colonists had seized three US sealing vessels. Great Britain has ruled the islands since 1833.

* Recent events: In 1976, an Argentine destroyer fired over the bow of a British ship in disputed waters near the Falklands. A month earlier, both countries recalled their ambassadors. Ties were only restablished in 1980. Sources: United Press International, Encyclopedia Britannica, and US Central Intelligence Agency.

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