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Last Updated: Wednesday, 23 February, 2005, 19:13 GMT
Iraqis march against Saturday
Students protest in Baquba
Many Iraqis are opposed to links with Jews and Israel
Hundreds of Iraqis have marched against plans to make Saturday a day of rest, calling the proposals a "Zionist plot".

Students in Baquba opposed the scheme, backed by outgoing Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, because they identify Saturday with the Jewish Sabbath.

Much of the world, including several Arab nations, observes a secular day of rest on Saturday.

Iraqis rest only on Friday, a Muslim holy day. Protesters said the weekend should be extended to include Thursday.

Muslim rejection

"We organised this demonstration in protest at considering Saturday a holiday," said high school student Mohammed Abbas, 17.

"We prefer it to be Thursday. Saturday is a holiday for Jews and we are Muslims and reject that decision."

Protesters waved Iraqi flags and denounced the proposals as "the start of Zionist plans in Iraq".

Outgoing interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi announced earlier this month that weekend leisure time would double with the inclusion of Saturday as a holiday.

Public sector employees would have to work longer hours during the week to compensate for the new day of rest.

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