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Iraqi lawmakers vote to change flag

BAGHDAD – Iraq’s parliament on Tuesday passed a law to change the Saddam Hussein-era flag, meeting the demands of Iraq’s Kurdish minority who threatened not to fly the banner during a pan-Arab meeting in the Kurdish-run north next month.

The measure, which expires in one year, was approved by show of hands, with 110 lawmakers of 165 present voting in favor of removing the three stars and changing the calligraphy of the words “Allahu Akbar” in a symbolic break with the past.

A law to establish a new banner must be passed in one year.

The absence of Iraq’s internationally recognized flag during a regional gathering on the territory of a founding member of the Arab League would have created negative publicity in the Arab world, where many see the Kurds as being too close to the Americans or harboring separatist intentions. In Iraq, not flying the country’s flag would be seen as fresh evidence of the Kurds’ go-it-alone policies.

To head off embarrassment for the Shiite Arab-dominated central government, parliament in Baghdad had scrambled for a solution in time for the conference.