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Last Updated: Wednesday, 27 April, 2005, 10:38 GMT 11:38 UK
Should US toughen airspace checks?
A319 British Airways Airbus flying
The US may force all foreign planes crossing its airspace to provide lists of passengers as part of tougher guards against terrorist attacks.

Full details would be checked against US terror watch-lists regardless of their destination - currently these are only needed for planes actually landing at US airports.

The plan has angered some airlines because routes may have to be changed at great expense and Aeromexico says it would violate international aviation agreements.

Should this proposal be allowed? Is it necessary? What do you think about the potentially affected airlines complaining?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.


The following comments reflect the balance of opinion we have received so far:

Countries need to do what is necessary to prevent attacks
Alan, London, UK
Countries need to do what is necessary to prevent attacks. In the UK, we don't put rubbish bins in underground stations because bombs were hidden there. In the US, planes were crashed into office buildings, hence the additional security over airplanes. Is it inconvenient? Yes. Is it necessary? Unfortunately, yes, too.
Alan, London, UK

The only times air security in/to the USA has been shown up in recent times is internally. This move is only to try to shift the blame, the US airlines knowing that news - such as of this "problem" - is not reported within the USA, so they look like they are doing something meaningful, when in fact they are not doing anything worth a damn. As they well know. They are annoying the rest of the world just because their own public won't know how pointless this move is. It also makes it plain that the US authorities do not actually care one fig for "security". Unless, of course, they know it's all a sham in the first place.
Michael Sandy, Swansea, Wales

Absolutely pointless. Security will worsen as resources are deployed to track the very nearly 100% of us who are harmless. Meanwhile Orwell's vision in "1984" starts to look attractive in comparison with the police state we are allowing the United States to extend over the entire planet in the name of "national security".
Brian Beesley, UK

A ridiculous idea from a ridiculous and paranoid country!
Jackie, Wickford, UK

Once other countries reciprocate, and all of our planes have to take ridiculously inefficient routes across the globe, I think we will regret this policy. I have noticed that Americans do not like delays.
Matthew, San Francisco, USA

This plan will create more bureaucracy without increasing security
Jo, USA
Terrorists could easily beat the system by changing their names or by hijacking domestic flights in either Canada or Mexico and using them to attack border cities. This plan will create more bureaucracy without increasing security. In fact, it could make the security situation worse by diverting time and money that could be better spent on security measures that actually work.
Jo, USA

In the US we're still allowing planes to fly over the airspace of major metropolitan areas, and we know of a slew of other airline security risks. If teenagers can get fake identification to purchase alcohol, terrorists can too.
David Stephen Ball-Romney, Seattle, USA

Given that it's the USA who appears to be on constant alert against a possible attack, should the rest of the world not put restrictions on US passengers entering our countries by treating them exactly as they treat us, potential terrorists?
Mike Hynan, EK, UK

And I thought forcing international passengers changing planes in US airports to have visas (and to go through all the finger printing and photographing that goes along with it) was a ridiculous idea. Why don't they just admit that they're building a new Iron Curtain and get over it.
Ben Holt, Vancouver, Canada

The airlines have the lists. How complicated and how troublesome is it to fax this list to the US while mid-flight? Perhaps it can even speed up customs.
Jim, Canada

All airlines have to provide passenger lists to comply with the air navigation acts. Sounds to me as if the US is sabre rattling and making out it's demanding something which it already has. Cheap policy ploy.
Tony, Welling, Kent

Seems about as much use as the question on US immigration cards, "Are you a terrorist?" I highly doubt terrorists will try the same thing as 11 September again in exactly the same way, besides they certainly won't be using their own names - especially after the US has announced this.
Bne Hobbs, Phuket, Thailand (British citizen)

Don't underestimate the potential effectiveness of this measure. All the 9/11 hijackers flew under their own names. Plus, biometric passports will be harder to forge.
Alan, London, UK

I live in America and I think that this new proposal is absolutely ridiculous
Sheena Verma, California
I live in America and I think that this new proposal is absolutely ridiculous. If you will notice - all of those in favour of this proposal are from the United States (except me). This just shows how much of a bubble American people live in - they bomb and ruin other countries but expect other countries to comply with proposals that won't solve anything.
Sheena Verma, California

It's our airspace, we can do whatever we want to make it safer.
Justin Hughes, Tacoma, USA

It is good to observe that so many understand the threat. As for the rest, (mainly from the UK) who are so distrustful of US actions, you will not understand until you lose 2,000-3,000 fellow citizens in London. Then you will understand where we stand and why.
Mark Mercer, Denver Colorado, USA

Considering the number of reported inaccuracies in the list and the lack of procedure, to have one name removed from it, this is just another paranoid US idea that should be resisted.
Gilles Fecteau, Toronto, Canada

I don't like the notion that only the US is a target of terrorism and needs protection
Sangam Dhruva, USA
I don't like the notion that only the US is a target of terrorism and needs protection. Many other countries have been victim of terrorism and have been fighting for years. There should be truly global efforts to ensure all necessary checks are performed at the source airport. Also, in case someone's name matches the watch-list. What should be done? Blow the plane? Or send to another country? Any word on that please?
Sangam Dhruva, USA

As someone who was up close witness to 11 September I think it is a great idea. Who are you (Europeans) to say we should not use this as another aspect to secure our safety in the US? If you don't like the idea don't come here, simple as that. I think the paranoia you speak of is not warranted because if you have nothing to hide then what's the worry.
Chris, USA

As long as US airlines flying into other countries have no objections to providing the destination countries with passenger lists, I see no objection to what is being proposed. I think reciprocity would work wonderfully in this case.
Tanveer, Clinton, USA

People have a right to safety. There's nothing wrong with this measure. It may not have a huge effect on its own, but it is a part of a larger security effort. I do not have a problem with it. The world needs more initiatives like this. I am surprised that this has not been the norm in the past.
David, Cornwall, UK

This is a knee jerk reaction by our administration
ED, USA
Firstly, there has to be one list, not a hundred of them if they truly want this concept to work. I do think that this is a knee jerk reaction by our administration to fool "we the people" into thinking that they are still fighting terror. It gives me the impression they are grabbing at straws because they don't know what to do.
ED, USA

Several respondents have made the point about terrorists travelling under assumed identities. Hopefully, new biometric passports, if globally adopted would make this far more difficult. I believe improved technology can help ease the choice between increasing security and restricting the free flow of people between countries.
Howard, Austin, TX USA

I'm no fan of the current administration but it seems reasonable for any government to have knowledge of who is flying over its airspace. If steps are not taken, and there is another disastrous event, then citizens will be probing to know why the government did not take action. While it may not be ideal, if it saves anyone from being attacked by fanatics, I think it is a good thing.
Timothy Spruill, New Hampshire, USA

The USA should build one airport in one of its deserts, land all passengers there, have them pass lie detector tests, analyse each passenger's DNA, etc. Once cleared they can then travel on. All suspects to be left in the desert.
Axel McNaughty, Zurich Switzerland

My surname is Abdullahi, an obviously Islamic name. So what happens if a wanted terrorist just happens to have the same name as me? Does that mean that I'll be sent off to Guantanamo without the possibility of seeing a lawyer or knowing the reasons for my imprisonment?
Rasine, London

I don't have a problem with this as long as the checks are carried out before the flight departs. Just look at the disgraceful treatment dished out to Cat Stevens.
James D, Birmingham

I would welcome any stringent guideline that helps to ensure my safety and those of others
Rick, Minnesota, USA
First of all, it is sovereign airspace. Secondly, anyone with nothing to hide shouldn't mind, and thirdly, it's an excellent deterrent. Those who complain, whine, and demand reciprocity from their countries...good on you. I travel internationally on a routine basis, and I would welcome any stringent guideline that helps to ensure my safety and those of others.
Rick, Minnesota, USA

It amazes me this isn't done already. Airlines already know who is onboard their flights otherwise their luggage is unloaded.
John, UK

All the hijacked flights on 9/11 were internal. American security for internal flights is still lacking because they don't want to put passengers off with long delays. When the Americans get their house clean then they can expect others to follow.
George, Canada/Wales

The only people who benefit are the ailing US carriers
Monica, UK
I work for a major airline and we already submit passenger info (as do all other airlines flying to the States). One occasion springs to mind. We submitted the list, but the US refused the airline to land that particular flight. This was because one person was travelling who they thought posed a threat, but the US authorities didn't bother informing the airlines who have lists of people who are refused entry to fly to the States. So the airline couldn't possibly know that the plane would be refused to land, and consequently had to pay thousands of pounds in compensation to passengers (thanks to the EU comp laws) and swallow other thousands of pounds in costs of fuel etc. The only people who benefit are the ailing US carriers who the majority of them are or have been in chapter 11 and are finding it difficult to compete globally.
Monica, UK

What's the point of a list of names? Eight months ago I mislaid my passport on a flight from Amsterdam to New York. When I arrived I was ushered through Customs and into the US like a visiting dignitary, despite having no ID of any kind, after a 10 minute chat with security.
Anon, UK

Fine, just as long as all flights leaving America and flying over other countries are subjected to the same checks and information requirements. It is obvious that the Americans are running scared as they are alienating so many other countries with their arrogance and aggression.
Arthur, Derby, UK

You have a choice not to visit us, but if you do, I hope this will help you feel safer
Sue, USA
To all those critics: Our way of life in America changed forever on 9/11. I pray that you never have to experience it and hope that you can silence your insults just this once. I am for anything that will help to keep my children safe because I never want them to know that kind of fear in their lifetime. You have a choice not to visit us, but if you do, I hope this will help you feel safer.
Sue, USA

Brilliant - all we need is for (1) terrorists to use their real name and (2) that their real names are known to the authorities. Of course, the fact that the terrorists responsible for 9/11 hijacked internal flights might make this policy look just a teeny bit daft.
Alan, Sevenoaks, Kent

There is no doubt that terrorism is a blight on the world, but let's look at thing in perspective; we have to live our lives. Reasonable steps, like not letting firearms on an aircraft are fine, but this is a step too far.
Iain, Poole

Why are we so obsessed with Yank-bashing? It's not like we have our own house in complete order. It's their airspace - if you don't like it, fly round it.
John, Watford, UK

Never mind who is on board planes in US airspace, I would be more concerned with who is entering illegally over the US/Mexico border. A border which the Bush administration is still failing on a huge level to secure.
Ed H, UK (currently in US)

If the US government feels that it will make us safer, than so be it
Stacy, Columbus, OH

Many of the people who have commented on this topic so far seem as if it is a personal insult. If the US government feels that it will make us safer, than so be it. When I fly to the UK or any other country, I expect to obey their laws and guidelines. If you don't like it, you don't have to visit that particular country.
Stacy, Columbus, OH

What if there is someone on the plane who shares the same name with a wanted terrorist? Would that innocent person be wrongly convicted of terrorism by American law?
Dean, London

I wonder if Bin Laden ever realised how effective his attack on the American homeland would be. America that once proud and mighty nation striking at shadows, cowed by one man.
Paul, Belgium

An entirely unworkable and pointless strategy to boost the US administrations ego
Giles Clinker, London

Just more ridiculous political posturing - how can knowing the names of people on an aircraft help the US security services? They have no more information about that person, they don't have a copy of their passport or travel documents so can't carry out any further vetting. If you're unlucky enough to share a name with a terrorist wanted by the US government will your plane be shot down or forced to land? An entirely unworkable and pointless strategy to boost the US administrations ego.
Giles Clinker, London, UK

None of the measures proposed here would have prevented 11 September 2001 had they been in place then, and neither will they prevent any repeat occurrence. It is truly terrifying how the US and other western governments are playing on people's fear and paranoia to allow increasingly harsh restrictions on our freedom.
Dan, Yateley, UK

The USA will implement yet another totally over the top regulation. Why don't they just go the whole hog and ban all passengers in the name of security? Best just to stay way clear of the paranoid USA.
John, Hokkaido, Japan

The US immigration card asks if you are entering the USA to commit an act of terrorism - I would be interested to know if anyone ever answered yes to the question.
Anon

It is the right of the US to implement rules that provide protection for the US. Other governments have their own rules. If you don't like them then stay home.
Bell, Raleigh, USA

The US can do what they like with their own airspace
Tim, England

I've no objection to this at all. The US can do what they like with their own airspace. It's when they start invading other country's territory in the name of preventing terrorism that I start to have a problem.
Tim, England

I don't see any reason why they shouldn't do this. At the end of the day it's their airspace and they have the right to demand any information they wish before they allow you to enter it!!
Steve, Liverpool, England

Who will be checking the lists of passenger names? Will it be the INS, who awarded Mohammed Atta a posthumous visa to enter the US to study, or the FBI who subjected a septuagenarian grandfather to three weeks of imprisonment because they confused him with a terrorist?
Karl Peters, UK

Is this in case terrorists travel under their own names?
Douglas Ritchie, Kent, UK
What will supplying list of passengers do? Is this in case terrorists travel under their own names?
Douglas Ritchie, Kent, UK

It's a reasonable request. This data is already in the hands of the airline carrying the passengers. Passing it on to the destination country seems prudent given what's going on in the world today.
Rob G, Kansas City, USA

Isn't the simplest way for any potential terrorist to defeat this by flying under a different name?
Simon, Manchester, England

I think if the plane originates from a country with a history of lax security then it would be appropriate to check the passenger list. Otherwise, the whole thing seems a bit like overkill and is just creating more bureaucracy.
Dwayne Chastain, West Jefferson, Ohio USA

It is our airspace and the security threats against us are very real
Brett, Arizona
This rule is perfectly acceptable. It is our airspace and the security threats against us are very real. Rerouting does not need to occur, the flights can run the passenger checks prior to takeoff. If anyone comes up as a match, the airline removes him/her from the flight, and finds an alternate route for that individual.
Brett, Arizona

I can't see anything wrong with this proposal except that it probably wouldn't solve anything. 11 September 2001 happened on internal flights and Richard Reid was unknown to the security forces. I think that this is just posturing to make Americans feel safe when they watch the news bulletins.
Jim Kirk, Basildon UK

As noxious as I find the current US administration and their foreign policies, there is nothing wrong with wanting to know who is in their airspace. The US will do all the checking, it can only benefit carriers really.
Andrew Malden, Milton Keynes, England

As long as it doesn't mean more fare increases for the passenger or further delays when travelling, it's fine by me.
Mathew Newman, Manchester, UK

I assume that if I flew to the US and was not allowed to land because I looked like a suspect they had on their list, I would be fully compensated financially by the US for the flight, lost holiday, stress, inconvenience etc? If not, then the US is a country I shall never visit.
Peter, Sussex, UK

It should not make much difference organisationally
DRL, Milton Keynes, UK
As these lists are already compiled, it should not make much difference organisationally. It is not beyond the wit of man to organise to have an additional copy forwarded to the appropriate US body, as long as said body gears up to receive them. The real question is will the US refuse permission for flights with lists where the US can not verify that all on the list are acceptable?
DRL, Milton Keynes, UK

Once again it is not so much the measure itself that is infuriating, it is the way it is being introduced. Without consulting any of airlines that will be affected and without any prior notice, the Bush administration introduced a measure that violates air travel regulations. The Bush administration has decided that it can act as it pleases whenever it pleases.
Harilao Florakis, Greece

I think it is a good idea providing the US actually work with other countries to provide a consolidated list of suspects. The current farce with the KLM flight only goes to show that their list is different to other countries. A war against terror should be a united one, not one where the US write the rules. I fly every week and all the checks can be a pain, but they are necessary and must be seen to have value otherwise people will not take them seriously
Dave, NL

The US has the right to know who is flying over their airspace, as does any country. However, the problems will manifest themselves in bureaucratic incompetence. Just this week the US has banned cigarette lighters on air planes, you can still take matches though - duh! The US government is also the world's leader in the ownership of confiscated nail clippers.
Neil Hastings, USA

Sadly the US seems to have returned to the paranoia of the McCarthy era. They are cutting themselves off from the rest of the world and as things stand that will be fine by many of us. There really is no justification whatsoever for their neurotic 'security' practices and their response to possible terrorism is absurd. Personally, I would like the rest of the world to react in a 'tit for tat' fashion and demand visas from all American citizens who want to travel outside the USA.
Ian, Holland

This should have been done on 12 September 2001
Mark, USA
This should have been done on 12 September 2001. The US government has taken the minimum number and severity of steps to assure the security of the American people. The Clinton Administration took no steps at all. The inconvenience and cost to foreign airlines takes precedence over the sovereignty and security of the United States.
Mark, USA

How would this work? How far in advance would they want the list? Does this mean that you could no longer fly standby to the US? In practice I just don't know how practical this is.
Jane, London, UK

What kind of free world do we live in if the authorities can't know where we are at any given time?
Dave, UK

This is ok, so long as every American aircraft that leaves American airspace is subjected to even more stringent aggressive security checks, prior to take off. Equally, when an American aircraft arrives at the destination, no American leaves that aircraft until he/she is cleared by the host nation's customs.
Mike Hellicar, Essex

Wow - this certainly spells the end of the road for all terrorists that travel under their real names..
Dan, Hampton

The measure the US is embarking on to tighten its airspace is the right step in the right direction. A recurrence of the events of 11 September 2001 does not have to happen before stringent measures are put in place to safeguard the airspace. Although other airlines might not like the measure, it is US airspace and must be protected. With time, foreign airlines using US airspace will get use to the system. Terrorism has affected the way we perceive things when it comes to security.
Omorodion Osula, Boston, USA

Of course they should, and all other countries should follow suit. An aeroplane is probably the biggest kind of non-nuclear missile there is, the scary thing being there's thousands of them in the air all over the world at any one time. We need to be sure there are no opportunities for a plane to become a flying bomb, we've seen the results of that all to clearly.
Jimbo, Workington UK

Perhaps people should look to the rules governing flying into or over Saudi Arabia before condemning the US plans - they might just see that these have been the norm for many years. Incidentally, when I worked in the KSA all airports were under the control of the Air Force, and I do not recall any complaints in those days.
Paul Green, London

It seems to me to be a simple choice. Either defer to the wishes of the country whose airspace you wish to cross or go around that country. We need to squeeze out the curse of terrorism and if this measure helps, good.
David, Madrid, Spain

Anthony Jones, Leeds, UK - So you think there are benevolent reasons behind everything the US does do you?
DRL, Milton Keynes, UK

This is just another piece of fear induced US propaganda. Will checking a list of names really prevent a terrorist attack? Or is this just an attempt to delude the rest of the world that America is combating terrorism?
Albert Stone, Banbury, England

So what happens when a clerical error, a case of stolen identity or - indeed - a name which appears on the list happens to be on a plane which is passing through US airspace? Will the USAF shoot it down?
Martin Gamble, Northern England

The US government wants to keep the US people scared and malleable. This is simply part of that, nothing more.
Allan, Surrey

No one doubts for one moment the rights of the US to do whatever it likes on, or over, it's country. As to whether it's necessary, I doubt it's necessary yet. Continued aggression against so many other countries will obviously result, eventually, in violence against themselves.
Steve, UK

Since security was tightened up on flights to and from US destinations it seems logical that terrorists would look for ways to bypass those measures. A flight from Canada to Mexico could just as easily be hijacked and used in a September 11th style attack as internal flights were on that day. Just because work behind the scenes has averted further attacks doesn't mean that the danger has gone away. The price for liberty is not liberty itself, but eternal vigilance.
Andrew, Cardiff, UK

So how would this stop terrorists travelling under a false identity? Unless all terrorists tell the truth about themselves, this won't make me feel safer.
James K, London, UK

Would the Americans be happy if we request flight details from their passengers flying over European airspace, or are they only worried about covering their own backs as usual?
Michelle, Cardiff, UK

In the current state of 'fortress America' this is not surprising. But will they get the right data? Terrorists are capable of feeding false data or they may be using false names. I suspect this has more to do with the authorities trying to show that they are tough on terrorism rather than any real benefit. The best defence against another attack is a fully armed F16 with orders to blow the aircraft out of the sky and there is no shortage of those.
Chris Parker, Bucks

It's their airspace and I have nothing to hide. In fact I have something to gain if I travel with an airline which accepts the rule - Less likelihood of some suicidal maniac sitting on the seat next to me. As for the people who say 'I will holiday somewhere else then'. Good. I doubt your few dollars will be missed.
John, France

It's a good idea. The US has already seen that naivety and complacency in the past can cost thousands of lives and they are determined not to let it happen again.
David, West Midlands, UK

If the USA wants to do this, why not? It's their prerogative and they have every right to. The only down side is that fewer people will want to visit the USA and could make the country not just politically but also physically more remote from the rest of the world.
Ian, Swansea

Why don't they just close the borders and refuse to allow anyone in or out? These ever-increasing signs of desperation verging on paranoia aren't fooling anyone; they just make it harder and harder for the genuine tourist and business traveller to visit the US to spend their holiday money. My wife is American, but our holiday dollars are increasingly becoming holiday euros instead, precisely to avoid this kind of hassle.
John B, UK

This is a small price to pay for security of both UK airspace and our friends and allies in the USA. I suspect it will be the French and Germans who complain.
John Karran, Liverpool

I don't have a problem with wanting to know who is in your airspace. Existing agreements are irrelevant since a country can pull out of agreements and demand new ones any time it wishes. The UK should probably do the same.
Roger, UK

The US should do everything in her power to protect her citizens
Patrick Kinyanjui, Nairobi, Kenya
If getting these lists will be a deterrent to future attacks, the US should do everything in her power to protect her citizens.
Patrick Kinyanjui, Nairobi, Kenya

If the USA wants to know who is in their airspace, that's up to them. However, it should not be unreasonable for all countries to require the same documentation for any over flights, including U2 and blackbird type spy planes.
Nick, UK

US security is a joke. Why are they forcing other countries to tighten up when I was able to walk freely from the boarding gate to outside to smoke a cigarette and back in again without having to go back through the security checks at Seattle airport a few months ago.
Bob, Brighton, UK

Great, so now anyone with an Arab-sounding name can be turned out of US airspace. This is just another terrible step towards restricting the movement of certain races and increasing US state interference in citizens who don't belong to them.
Evan, Edinburgh

Great. Implement it here too. If you've nothing to hide, where's the problem? Far too many illegal immigrants come here as it is, any tightening should be welcomed.
Nick, London

You can wrap all sorts of underhand legislation around the cry of 'its in the national interest' and get away with it
Bryan McGee, Scotland, UK
Foreign airlines will have to comply with this request from the US administration. To refuse would allow the US and their right wing paranoid press to level the charge of aiding and abetting the enemy. You can wrap all sorts of underhand legislation around the cry of 'its in the national interest' and get away with it.
Bryan McGee, Scotland, UK

I travelled to the US at Easter and was bemused by the security checks I was subjected to. Why were my fingerprints scanned at immigration, when no similar check was made as I left? My suitcase was broken into during the journey back from the states, and a slip left inside to tell me that a security check had been made - but a parcel inside the suitcase remained unopened. I'm not sure what was gained by going through my underwear, when the only potentially suspicious item in the case was not checked.
Helen, Manchester, UK

Why would anybody want to land in the US anyway? Already transit passengers are finger printed and photographed. Now the authorities are collecting names too. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see what they are doing. Asia is a much better option for transit passengers that don't have to go to the US.
Simon Mitchell, Brisbane, Australia

The USA will eventually cut itself off from the world in a fit of paranoia. Actually, it also seems that the price for liberty in the US is liberty itself.
Paul, Bracknell, UK

It's a waste of time and effort
Adam Streather (15), Bangkok, Thailand
I think the US has done enough so far towards protecting its airspace. By enforcing this rule you force airlines to spend more time and effort on getting these lists to the US and then people have to read them and check them. It's a waste of time and effort. Also it is a violation to the International Aviation agreements. Finally, there has been no threats lately to US airspace so I don't understand where and why this plan has appeared.
Adam Streather (15), Bangkok, Thailand

I don't see the problem. The US has every right to know who's coming into their airspace, and the airlines whining about having to change their routes will only have to do so if they don't comply with the regulations. I guess some people are determined to find malevolent reasons behind everything the US does.
Anthony Jones, Leeds, UK

No complaints here. I've nothing to hide and anything that makes air travel safer should be welcomed. And if it raises the price of air travel? Well I'd rather pay with my wallet than with my life.
Paul Mehoff, Homerton, London

Internal security is a matter for the US government. With Fortress America policies already in place, this extra step will only force tourists and business to seek their pleasure and profit respectively elsewhere.
Tim Rollinson, Tonbridge, UK

There is a fine line between plausible security measures and outright paranoia
Ian, London
There is a fine line between plausible security measures and outright paranoia. This proposal crosses that line.
Ian, London

It's America's airspace and they can make their own rules regarding it. However, it should be applied fairly and accurately - there have been too many mistakes about identities of passengers in the past being mixed-up with so-called terror suspects with the same name.
AJ, Edinburgh, Scotland





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