Iraq's Kurdish region hoists controversial new flag

Other News Materials 10 February 2008 13:13 (UTC +04:00)

( dpa ) - Iraq's Kurdish Autonomous Region saw Sunday a new controversial national flag fly over its parliament ending a long refusal to hoist it because of its connection to Saddam Hussein's former regime.

The new flag was raised on the Arbil-based parliament of the Kurdish region by its speaker, Adnan al-Mufti, in an official ceremony attended by Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani, the Voices of Iraq (VOI) news agency reported.

At an emergency parliamentary session, al-Mufti announced that the "current flag will be raised in the province next to its own flag."

The flag is a one-year banner until a permanent design has been selected.

Though it no longer bears three green stars representing the motto of the Baath Party of "Unity, Freedom, Socialism", it retains the same design and colours - red, white and black.

Saddam's handwritten "Allahu Akbar" (God is great) will be replaced by the same motto, but written in an old-style Arabic font.

Iraq's Kurds did not want the new flag to have any connection with the former regime because it reminded them of gas bombings campaign in al-Anfal in the 1980s in which thousands of Kurds were killed.

The new banner prompted a heated debate in Iraq until it was finally approved by parliament in January.

The row over the flag has deepened fears about the independence drive of the Kurdish region in northern Iraq, which has its own language and national anthem.

However, the national anthem of Iraq was sung at the flag-raising ceremony on Sunday.