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Last Updated: Sunday, 20 August 2006, 15:29 GMT 16:29 UK
'No swastikas' for Nato mittens
By Laura Sheeter
BBC News, Riga

Nato Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer at the alliance headquarters in Brussels
It was thought the design might offend delegates unfamiliar with local folklore
Latvians have been asked to knit mittens as gifts to delegates at a Nato summit later this year - but without a traditional swastika motif.

Local craftspeople have been asked to make the mittens in an attempt to showcase Latvian culture ahead of the November summit, the first in Latvia.

Three hundred knitters are being asked to make 4,500 mittens.

The swastika design is not a Nazi symbol - it is a traditional Latvian motif from local folklore.

Unique designs

Latvia joined Nato in 2004, just 13 years after it regained its independence from the Soviet Union, and the country regards hosting the Nato summit this November as an unparalleled chance to boost its international profile.

As well as a welcome pack containing a taster of Latvia's national spirit - Riga Black Balsams - each delegate will be presented with a hand knitted pair of traditional Latvian mittens.

With their distinctive pointy tips, and complex decorations, each pair of mittens is guaranteed to be unique.

The summit organisers say the mittens will show the world the richness and diversity of Latvian culture, as each region of the country, and sometimes even individual villages, have their own mitten designs.

These are often based on patterns inspired by nature and the pagan traditions of Latvia's past.

Swastikas have featured in traditional Latvian knitwear for centuries, variously known as the Thunder Cross or Fire Cross, but its feared that delegates, unfamiliar with local folklore, may take mittens decorated with swastikas amiss.

Europe prepares for cultural boost
26 Apr 04 |  Entertainment
Timeline: Latvia
29 Jan 06 |  Country profiles
Country profile: Latvia
12 Jul 06 |  Country profiles

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