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New Iraq flag flying – for now

Wed., Feb. 6, 2008

BAGHDAD – A new Iraq flag – stripped of the three green stars of Saddam Hussein’s toppled Baath party – was hoisted over the Iraqi Cabinet building Tuesday in a symbolic break with the past nearly five years after the U.S.-led invasion.

It marked the latest of several tweaks and revisions – and one failed American-supervised redesign – of Iraq’s national symbol over the decades from monarchy to military rule to the rise and fall of Saddam’s regime. And more fine-tuning could come after the one-year lifespan for the new flag.

Its main modification removes the stars, which were added in the early 1960s in homage to the pan-Arab bonds promoted by Egypt’s Gamal Abdel Nasser. Later, the green stars were associated with the slogans of Saddam’s party: unity, freedom and socialism.

The new design also officially enshrines the new script for the Arabic words “Allahu Akbar,” or “God is Great” in green – which were added as part of Saddam’s 1990-91 occupation of Kuwait.

The original calligraphy – believed inspired by Saddam’s handwriting – was replaced with the sparse Kufic script after his fall in 2003. But many houses continued to fly the old flag.

“It is a good step toward the new Iraq,” said Nassih Gahfour, a lawmaker in northern Iraq’s semiautonomous Kurdish area, where officials had demanded the changes and threatened not to fly the flag while hosting a meeting of Arab parliament members later this month.

Many Kurds identify the Saddam-era flag with his campaigns of persecution in the 1980s that left more than 100,000 Kurds dead.

The new flag is just a stopgap design. It is valid for just one year, when parliament will take up the flag flap again.


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