Author`s name Dmitry Sudakov

Bush’s flag in Baghdad infuriates Iraqis

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki raised a new Iraqi flag over his office building recently in central Baghdad's heavily fortified Green Zone. The minister believes that the flag will rid the country of crimes and human rights violations that committed under Saddam Hussein’s flag. New banners already blow in the wind above the Parliament and other offices of the capital and some other towns.

Saad Rusheed, the mayor of Sunni Fallujah, the city that became the symbol of armed resistance to the US invasion four years ago, called this innovation a disaster. “I am using the old flag in my office and at home,” he said. Many residents of Baghdad attached the old flag of their country to their cars as a silent token of protest.

In a year or so Iraq will have its permanent flag that will please everyone. The present provisional flag was approved by the parliament a month ago after three years of debates. Kurdish officials refused to fly the old flag of the overthrown regime because they associate it with the genocide of the Kurdish people. The old flag of Iraq was banned in Kurdistan in the early 1990s when the USA relieved the region of Saddam’s rule.

The present flag is an orthogonal cloth with height-to-width ratio of 1:2, not 2:3 as it was before the foreign invasion in 2003. It preserves equal stripes (red, white and black). In the middle of the white stripe there is the phrase saying “Allahu Akbar” (“God is Great”) in green Arabic script. Before 2004 it was considered to be Saddam’s handwriting, added on the flag in January 1991 during the Gulf War. Now it has been changed. Three green stars on the flag representing unity, freedom and socialism, the motto of Saddam's Baath party, have been removed.

In 2004 the occupation authorities suggested a flag version with a Kurdish element (a yellow stripe and a sun framed with white and blue stripes), but Arabic deputies considered that decision incompatible with their traditions. Moreover, that flag version resembled the Israeli flag very much.

Israel is not only concerned about symbolics, but also prepares to kick-start negotiations this month concerning the long-term strategic pact with the US. They hope to conclude the pact by July. The pact is aimed to establish and confirm the friendly relations with the USA in economy, security, politics and diplomacy before the coalition force mandate issued by the UN Security Council expires in 2008, the Iraqi authorities said.

In November 2007 in Washington Nuri al-Maliki and George Bush agreed to start negotiations concerning the overall pact. In early January, Ryan Crocker, the US Ambassador to Baghdad, said that the two countries will hold high-level talks taking into consideration how important the document is and the fact that it will formalize the reciprocal relations for years and even decades.

They will discuss not the number, but the role of US forces in the country, the US Embassy to Iraq underlined.

AP photos

Vremya Novostei

Translated by Julia Bulygina

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