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AREA: 504,782 sq km (194,897 sq miles).

POPULATION: 39,371,147 (1998).

POPULATION DENSITY: 72.47 per sq km.

CAPITAL: Madrid. Population: 2,866,850 (1996).

GEOGRAPHY: Spain shares the Iberian peninsula with Portugal and is bounded to the north by the Pyrenees, which separate Spain from France. The Balearic Islands (Mallorca, Menorca, Ibiza and Formentera), 193km (120 miles) southeast of Barcelona, and the Canary Islands off the west coast of Africa are part of Spain, as are the tiny enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla on the north African mainland. With the exception of Switzerland, mainland Spain is the highest and most mountainous country in Europe, with an average height of 610m (2000ft). The Pyrenees stretch roughly 400km (249 miles) from the Basque Country in the west to the Mediterranean Sea; at times the peaks rise to over 1524m (5000ft), the highest point being 3404m (11,169ft). The main physical feature of Spain is the vast central plateau, or Meseta, divided by several chains of sierras. The higher northern area includes Castille and León, the southern section comprises Castile/La Mancha and Extremadura. In the south the plateau drops abruptly at the Sierra Morena, beyond which lies the valley of Guadalquivir. Southeast of Granada is the Sierra Nevada, part of the Betic Cordillera, which runs parallel to the Mediterranean, rising to 3481m (11,420ft) and the highest point on the Spanish peninsula (the Pico del Teide on Tenerife in the Canaries is the highest peak in Spain). The Mediterranean coastal area reaches from the French frontier in the northeast down to the Straits of Gibraltar, the narrow strip of water linking the Mediterranean with the Atlantic and separating Spain from North Africa.

GOVERNMENT: Constitutional monarchy since 1978. 
Head of State:
King Juan Carlos I since 1975. Head of Government: Prime Minister José María Aznar López since 1996.

LANGUAGE: Spanish (Castillian), Catalan, Galician and Basque.

RELIGION: Roman Catholic majority.

TIME: Mainland Spain/Balearics: GMT + 1 (GMT + 2 from last Sunday in March to Saturday before last Sunday in October).