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Last Updated: Wednesday, 23 January 2008, 12:16 GMT
Iraq parliament approves new flag
Iraq's new flag at the top and old flag bearing Saddam Hussein's handwriting at the bottom
The new flag (top) ditches the stars and script from Saddam's version
Iraq's parliament has voted to change the country's flag.

The three stars that represented Saddam Hussein's Baath Party will be removed, to address the concerns of Iraqi Kurds.

They have refused to fly the flag since the fall of Saddam Hussein, saying it is too closely associated with a regime that repressed and killed their people.

The flag was also changed in 2004, when a line of script, allegedly in Saddam Hussein's own handwriting, was changed to Kufic script.

But the latest change - passed by 110 votes to 50 - is only temporary, as a design for a new flag will be sought after one year.

Agreement over the flag is another sign that the Iraqi parliament is moving forward on difficult issues, says the BBC's Jonny Dymond in Baghdad.

A measure that should allow former Baath party members to rejoin the bureaucracy and military was passed 10 days ago.

However, big obstacles to unity remain. The Iraqi parliament said on Tuesday that attempts to pass the 2008 budget had stalled, leading to fears that infrastructure projects would be delayed.

Changing times

The new flag retains the three colours of the old one - red, white and black.

Iraqi flag proposal
A 2004 proposal was unpopular with Iraqis and subsequently dropped
But the stars that represented the ideology of the Baath party - unity, freedom and socialism - will be removed.

The Arabic inscription "Allahu Akbar" ("God is great") in green will be retained. As with the 2004-2008 version, it is written in Kufic script, making clear it is no longer in Saddam Hussein's handwriting.

Kufic is an ancient form of Arabic script that originated in what is now Iraq.

"The new flag has no signs of Saddam's regime and is a sign that change has been achieved in the country," said Humam Hamoudi, a prominent Shia politician and member of the powerful Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council party.

In 2004, Iraq's then US-appointed governing council tried to introduce an entirely new blue-white-and-yellow, flag, but it was withdrawn after protests including the objection that it too closely resembled the flag of Israel.

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