ONE OF THE largest countries in the Middle East, the Islamic Republic of Iran has a land area of 636,372 sq. mi. (1,648,195 sq. km.), with a population of 71,208,000 (2006 est.), and a population density of 109 people per sq. mi. (42 people per sq. km.). Tehran, the capital and the largest city, has a population density of 26,620 people per sq. mi. (10,260 per sq. km.). Ten percent of the country is arable land; 27 percent is used for meadows and pasture, much of it for low-intensity grazing of sheep and cattle; and 7 percent of the land is forested, although this is declining rapidly with heavy deforestation.

With an economy heavily reliant on oil, and with the price of petroleum low in the ...

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