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Europe :: Iceland
page last updated on October 28, 2009
Flag of Iceland
(CONTAINS DESCRIPTION)
Location of Iceland
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of Iceland
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Introduction ::Iceland
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Settled by Norwegian and Celtic (Scottish and Irish) immigrants during the late 9th and 10th centuries A.D., Iceland boasts the world's oldest functioning legislative assembly, the Althing, established in 930. Independent for over 300 years, Iceland was subsequently ruled by Norway and Denmark. Fallout from the Askja volcano of 1875 devastated the Icelandic economy and caused widespread famine. Over the next quarter century, 20% of the island's population emigrated, mostly to Canada and the US. Limited home rule from Denmark was granted in 1874 and complete independence attained in 1944. Literacy, longevity, and social cohesion are first-rate by world standards.
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Geography ::Iceland
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Northern Europe, island between the Greenland Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean, northwest of the United Kingdom
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65 00 N, 18 00 W
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total: 103,000 sq km
country comparison to the world: 107
land: 100,250 sq km
water: 2,750 sq km
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slightly smaller than Kentucky
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0 km
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4,970 km
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territorial sea: 12 nm
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
continental shelf: 200 nm or to the edge of the continental margin
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temperate; moderated by North Atlantic Current; mild, windy winters; damp, cool summers
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mostly plateau interspersed with mountain peaks, icefields; coast deeply indented by bays and fiords
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lowest point: Atlantic Ocean 0 m
highest point: Hvannadalshnukur 2,110 m (at Vatnajokull glacier)
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fish, hydropower, geothermal power, diatomite
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arable land: 0.07%
permanent crops: 0%
other: 99.93% (2005)
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NA
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170 cu km (2005)
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total: 0.17 cu km/yr (34%/66%/0%)
per capita: 567 cu m/yr (2003)
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earthquakes and volcanic activity
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water pollution from fertilizer runoff; inadequate wastewater treatment
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party to: Air Pollution, Air Pollution-Persistent Organic Pollutants, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Kyoto Protocol, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Transboundary Air Pollution, Wetlands, Whaling
signed, but not ratified: Environmental Modification, Marine Life Conservation
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strategic location between Greenland and Europe; westernmost European country; Reykjavik is the northernmost national capital in the world; more land covered by glaciers than in all of continental Europe
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People ::Iceland
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306,694 (July 2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 178
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0-14 years: 20.7% (male 32,268/female 31,308)
15-64 years: 67.1% (male 104,158/female 101,584)
65 years and over: 12.2% (male 16,952/female 20,424) (2009 est.)
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total: 35.1 years
male: 34.6 years
female: 35.6 years (2009 est.)
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0.741% (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 143
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13.43 births/1,000 population (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 154
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6.85 deaths/1,000 population (July 2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 139
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0.83 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 60
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urban population: 92% of total population (2008)
rate of urbanization: 0.8% annual rate of change (2005-10 est.)
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at birth: 1.04 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.03 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.02 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.83 male(s)/female
total population: 1 male(s)/female (2009 est.)
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total: 3.23 deaths/1,000 live births
country comparison to the world: 218
male: 3.38 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 3.08 deaths/1,000 live births (2009 est.)
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total population: 80.67 years
country comparison to the world: 14
male: 78.53 years
female: 82.9 years (2009 est.)
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1.9 children born/woman (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 143
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0.2% (2007 est.)
country comparison to the world: 100
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220 (2007 est.)
country comparison to the world: 155
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fewer than 100 (2003 est.)
country comparison to the world: 144
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noun: Icelander(s)
adjective: Icelandic
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homogeneous mixture of descendants of Norse and Celts 94%, population of foreign origin 6%
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Lutheran Church of Iceland 80.7%, Roman Catholic Church 2.5%, Reykjavik Free Church 2.4%, Hafnarfjorour Free Church 1.6%, other religions 3.6%, unaffiliated 3%, other or unspecified 6.2% (2006 est.)
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Icelandic, English, Nordic languages, German widely spoken
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definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 99%
male: 99%
female: 99% (2003 est.)
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total: 18 years
male: 17 years
female: 19 years (2006)
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7.6% of GDP (2004)
country comparison to the world: 16
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Government ::Iceland
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conventional long form: Republic of Iceland
conventional short form: Iceland
local long form: Lydveldid Island
local short form: Island
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constitutional republic
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name: Reykjavik
geographic coordinates: 64 09 N, 21 57 W
time difference: UTC 0 (5 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)
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8 regions; Austurland, Hofudhborgarsvaedhi, Nordhurland Eystra, Nordhurland Vestra, Sudhurland, Sudhurnes, Vestfirdhir, Vesturland
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1 December 1918 (became a sovereign state under the Danish Crown); 17 June 1944 (from Denmark)
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Independence Day, 17 June (1944)
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16 June 1944, effective 17 June 1944; amended many times
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civil law system based on Danish law; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction
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18 years of age; universal
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chief of state: President Olafur Ragnar GRIMSSON (since 1 August 1996)
head of government: Prime Minister Johanna SIGURDARDOTTIR (since 1 February 2009);
cabinet: Cabinet appointed by the prime minister
elections: president, a largely ceremonial post, is elected by popular vote for a four-year term (no term limits); election last held 28 June 2004 (next to be held in June 2012); following legislative elections, the leader of the majority party or the leader of the majority coalition is usually the prime minister
note: the presidential election of 28 June 2008 was never held because Olafur Ragnar GRIMSSON had no challengers; he was sworn in on 1 August 2008
2004 election results: Olafur Ragnar GRIMSSON elected president; percent of vote - Olafur Ragnar GRIMSSON 85.6%, Baldur AGUSTSSON 12.5%, Astthor MAGNUSSON 1.9%;
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unicameral Parliament or Althing (63 seats; members are elected by popular vote to serve four-year terms)
elections: last held 25 April 2009 (next to be held in 2013)
election results: percent of vote by party - Social Democratic Alliance 29.8%, Independence Party 23.7%, Left-Green Movement 21.7%, Progressive Party 14.8%, Citizens' Movement 7.2%, other 2.8%; seats by party - Social Democratic Alliance 20, Independence Party 16, Left-Green Alliance 14, Progressive Party 9, Citizens' Movement 4
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Supreme Court or Haestirettur (justices are appointed for life by the Minister of Justice); eight district courts (justices are appointed for life by the Minister of Justice)
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Citizens' Movement; Independence Party or IP [Bjarni BENEDIKTSSON, Jr.]; Left-Green Movement or LGM [Steingrimur SIGFUSSON]; Liberal Party or LP [Gudjon KRISTJANSSON]; Progressive Party or PP [Sigmundur David GUNNLAUGSSON; Social Democratic Alliance or SDA [Johanna SIGUROARDOTTIR] (includes People's Alliance or PA, Social Democratic Party or SDP, Women's List)
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People's Voices [Hordur TORFARSON]; New Times; Civic Action Association [Gunnar SIGURDSSON]; The Association of Military Opponents [Stefan PALSSON]
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Arctic Council, Australia Group, BIS, CBSS, CE, EAPC, EBRD, EFTA, FAO, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC, ICCt, ICRM, IDA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, IHO, ILO, IMF, IMO, IMSO, Interpol, IOC, IPU, ISO, ITSO, ITU, ITUC, MIGA, NATO, NC, NEA, NIB, OAS (observer), OECD, OPCW, OSCE, PCA, Schengen Convention, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UPU, WCO, WEU (associate), WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO
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chief of mission: Ambassador Hjalmar W. HANNESSON
chancery: House of Sweden, 2900 K Street NW #509, Washington, DC 20007
telephone: [1] (202) 265-6653
FAX: [1] (202) 265-6656
consulate(s) general: New York
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chief of mission: Ambassador Hjalmar HANNESSON
embassy: Laufasvegur 21, 101 Reykjavik
mailing address: US Department of State, 5640 Reykjavik Place, Washington, D.C. 20521-5640
telephone: [354] 562-9100
FAX: [354] 562-9118
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blue with a red cross outlined in white extending to the edges of the flag; the vertical part of the cross is shifted to the hoist side in the style of the Dannebrog (Danish flag); the colors represent three of the elements that make up the island: red is for the island's volcanic fires, white recalls the snow and ice fields of the island, and blue is for the surrounding ocean
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Economy ::Iceland
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Iceland's Scandinavian-type social-market economy combines a capitalist structure and free-market principles with an extensive welfare system, including generous housing subsidies. Prior to the 2008 crisis, Iceland had achieved high growth, low unemployment, and a remarkably even distribution of income. Government economic priorities have included stabilizing the krona, reducing the current account deficit, containing inflation, restructuring the financial sector, and diversifying the economy. The economy depends heavily on the fishing industry, which provides 40% of export earnings, more than 12% of GDP, and employs 7% of the work force. It remains sensitive to declining fish stocks as well as to fluctuations in world prices for its main exports: fish and fish products, aluminum, and ferrosilicon. Iceland's economy has been diversifying into manufacturing and service industries in the last decade, with new developments in software production, biotechnology, and tourism. Abundant geothermal sources have attracted substantial foreign investment in the aluminum and hydropower sectors and boosted economic growth, although the financial crisis has put several investment projects on hold. Much of Iceland's economic growth in recent years came as the result of a boom in domestic demand following the rapid expansion of the country's financial sector. Domestic banks expanded aggressively in foreign markets, and consumers and businesses borrowed heavily in foreign-currency loans, following the privatization of the sector in the early 2000s. Worsening global financial conditions throughout 2008 resulted in a sharp depreciation of the krona vis-a-vis other major currencies. The foreign exposure of Icelandic banks, whose loans and other assets totaled more than 10 times the country's GDP, became unsustainable. Iceland's three largest banks collapsed in late 2008. The country negotiated over $10 billion in loans from the IMF and other countries to stabilize its currency and financial sector, and to guarantee foreign deposits in Icelandic banks. A protracted recession is expected in 2009 and 2010 with GDP likely to contract and unemployment likely to surpass 10%. The collapse of the financial system has led to a major shift in opinion in favor of joining the EU and adopting the euro. Previous opposition to this move stemmed from Icelanders' concern about losing control of their fishing resources. Iceland's coalition government collapsed in January 2009 following protests over growing joblessness and losses to personal savings.
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$12.71 billion (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 140
$12.67 billion (2007 est.)
$12 billion (2006 est.)
note: data are in 2008 US dollars
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$17.55 billion (2008 est.)
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0.3% (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 194
5.5% (2007 est.)
4.5% (2006 est.)
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$41,800 (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 17
$42,000 (2007 est.)
$40,100 (2006 est.)
note: data are in 2008 US dollars
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agriculture: 5%
industry: 25.2%
services: 69.8% (2008 est.)
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184,000 (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 167
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agriculture: 3%
industry: 19%
services: 78% (2007)
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1.6% (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 12
1% (2007 est.)
note: this figure climbed to 9.4% as of February 2009
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NA%
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lowest 10%: NA%
highest 10%: NA%
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25 (2005)
country comparison to the world: 130
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23.9% of GDP (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 60
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revenues: $6.657 billion
expenditures: $6.856 billion (2008 est.)
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80.9% of GDP (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 13
35.9% of GDP (2004 est.)
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12.7% (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 177
5.1% (2007 est.)
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NA% (31 December 2008)
country comparison to the world: 12
15.25% (31 December 2007)
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NA% (31 December 2008)
country comparison to the world: 18
19.29% (31 December 2007)
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$NA (31 December 2008)
country comparison to the world: 62
$6.64 billion (31 December 2007)
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$15.05 billion (31 December 2006)
$NA (31 December 2007)
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$NA (31 December 2008)
country comparison to the world: 57
$49.67 billion (31 December 2006)
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$NA (31 December 2008)
country comparison to the world: 62
$40.56 billion (31 December 2007)
$36.1 billion (31 December 2006)
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potatoes, green vegetables; mutton, dairy products; fish
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fish processing; aluminum smelting, ferrosilicon production; geothermal power, tourism
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0% (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 134
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11.71 billion kWh (2007 est.)
country comparison to the world: 86
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11.22 billion kWh (2007 est.)
country comparison to the world: 79
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0 kWh (2008 est.)
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0 kWh (2008 est.)
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0 bbl/day (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 186
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19,880 bbl/day (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 126
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2,975 bbl/day (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 109
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17,510 bbl/day (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 117
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0 bbl (1 January 2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 160
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0 cu m (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 176
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0 cu m (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 172
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0 cu m (2008)
country comparison to the world: 66
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0 cu m (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 168
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0 cu m (1 January 2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 166
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$-1.782 billion (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 135
$-3.178 billion (2007 est.)
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$5.692 billion (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 105
$4.793 billion (2007 est.)
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fish and fish products 70%, aluminum, animal products, ferrosilicon, diatomite
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Netherlands 33.8%, UK 11.7%, Germany 11.5%, US 5.8%, Japan 4.9%, Norway 4.1% (2008)
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$5.782 billion (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 110
$6.181 billion (2007 est.)
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machinery and equipment, petroleum products, foodstuffs, textiles
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Norway 10.9%, Germany 10.4%, Sweden 9%, US 8%, Denmark 7.4%, China 6.8%, Netherlands 6%, UK 4.4%, Japan 4% (2008)
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$2.5 billion (31 December 2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 101
$2.436 billion (31 December 2007 est.)
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$3.073 billion (2002)
country comparison to the world: 122
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$NA
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$NA
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Icelandic kronur (ISK) per US dollar - 85.619 (2008 est.), 63.391 (2007), 70.195 (2006), 62.982 (2005), 70.192 (2004)
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Communications ::Iceland
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187,000 (2008)
country comparison to the world: 125
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342,000 (2008)
country comparison to the world: 166
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general assessment: telecommunications infrastructure is modern and fully digitized, with satellite-earth stations, fiber-optic cables, and an extensive broadband network
domestic: liberalization of the telecommunications sector beginning in the late 1990s has led to increased competition especially in the mobile services segment of the market
international: country code - 354; the CANTAT-3 and FARICE-1 submarine cable systems provide connectivity to Canada, the Faroe Islands, UK, Denmark, and Germany; a planned new section of the Hibernia-Atlantic submarine cable will provide additional connectivity to Canada, US, and Ireland; satellite earth stations - 2 Intelsat (Atlantic Ocean), 1 Inmarsat (Atlantic and Indian Ocean regions); note - Iceland shares the Inmarsat earth station with the other Nordic countries (Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden)
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AM 3, FM about 70, shortwave 1 (2008)
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14 (plus 156 repeaters) (1997)
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.is
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272,201 (2009)
country comparison to the world: 59
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250,000 (2008)
country comparison to the world: 131
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Transportation ::Iceland
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99 (2009)
country comparison to the world: 62
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total: 6
over 3,047 m: 1
1,524 to 2,437 m: 3
914 to 1,523 m: 2 (2009)
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total: 93
1,524 to 2,437 m: 3
914 to 1,523 m: 27
under 914 m: 63 (2009)
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total: 13,058 km
country comparison to the world: 129
paved/oiled gravel: 4,397 km (does not include urban roads)
unpaved: 8,661 km (2007)
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total: 2
country comparison to the world: 145
by type: passenger/cargo 2
registered in other countries: 37 (Antigua and Barbuda 12, Bahamas 1, Belize 2, Denmark 2, Faroe Islands 1, Gibraltar 1, Malta 5, Marshall Islands 3, Norway 3, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines 7) (2008)
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Grundartangi, Hafnarfjordur, Reykjavik
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Military ::Iceland
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no regular military forces; Icelandic National Police (2008)
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males age 16-49: 74,896 (2008 est.)
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males age 16-49: 62,576
females age 16-49: 61,159 (2009 est.)
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male: 2,369
female: 2,349 (2009 est.)
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0% of GDP (2005 est.)
country comparison to the world: 173
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Iceland has no standing military force; under a 1951 bilateral agreement - still valid - its defense was provided by the US-manned Icelandic Defense Force (IDF) headquartered at Keflavik; however, all US military forces in Iceland were withdrawn as of October 2006; although wartime defense of Iceland remains a NATO commitment, in April 2007, Iceland and Norway signed a bilateral agreement providing for Norwegian aerial surveillance and defense of Icelandic airspace (2008)
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Transnational Issues ::Iceland
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Iceland, the UK, and Ireland dispute Denmark's claim that the Faroe Islands' continental shelf extends beyond 200 nm
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