BAGHDAD, Iraq – Iraq's U.S.-picked leaders approved a new flag for the country, making a dramatic change that dumps the Saddam Hussein-era colors and slogan "God is great" and introduces symbols of the Tigris (search) and Euphrates (search) rivers, a spokesman said Monday.
The new flag is white, with two parallel blue strips across the bottom representing the rivers and a yellow stripe between them representing Iraq's Kurdish minority (search). Above the stripes is a blue crescent representing Islam.
Council spokesman, Hameed al-Kafaei, said the U.S.-picked council approved the design as the new official flag — though the artist was asked to touch up the color of the crescent, perhaps to a darker blue or a different color.
The old Iraq flag had red and black bands across the top and bottom, with a white band between them with three green stars. During the 1980s Iran-Iraq war, Saddam added the Arabic words "Allahu akbar," or "God is great," to boost the religious credentials of his secular regime.
"This is a new era," al-Kafaei said. "We cannot continue with Saddam's flag." An official declaration of the flag will come later this week, he said.
The new design appeared on the front pages of the Al-Sabah newspaper Monday, and Iraqis crowded around to check it out. "It is the real model as it represents all spectrum of the Iraqi society," said one man, Mohammed Faris.
But the dramatic change in a national symbol could raise some complaints — particularly since it came from U.S.-picked leaders seen by many Iraqis as American puppets. U.S. administrators have tried quietly in the past to change the flag by dropping the words "Allahu akbar," but Iraqis have refused to abide by the change.
One council member said the Iraqi leadership should wait for an elected government before altering such a major national symbol.
"In my opinion, it should be not be passed until we have a parliament," Mahmoud Othman said. "I think there are issues more important to concentrate on now than the changing of the flag."