Iraq's parliament to pick new flag in November

Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Buchanan, a deputy commander of the U.S. Army's 10th Mountain Division and of the U.S. military command for the Baghdad area, speaks with an Iraqi farmer, Tuesday. July 15, 2008, in an area about five miles east of the town of Latifiyah - that until recent months was a stronghold for al-Qaidai in Iraq. (AP Photo/Robert Burns)

BAGHDAD (AP) -- For years, Iraq's flag has been a symbol of national division rather than unity.

In November, Iraq's parliament will vote on a new flag after years of wrangling over its design, an Iraqi lawmaker said Thursday.

Fifty designs for the new flag have been submitted by artists and designers inside and outside the country, said Mufeed al-Jazairi, head of the parliamentary committee charged with selecting the new flag. A jury panel will select three for consideration by legislators, he said.

Al-Jazairi said the new flag should express "the culture and the unity" of all Iraqi people and "put an end to a debated issue that has been going on for the past five years."

Iraq's flag has played a divisive role since Saddam Hussein was overthrown by U.S.-led forces in 2003.

Earlier this year, Iraqi lawmakers voted to strip the three green stars of Saddam's toppled Baath party from the flag's red, white and black stripes. But parliament kept the script of "Allahu Akbar" - or "God is Great" - in green.

The change was prompted by a dispute with Iraq's Kurdish minority, which objected to that flag because of Saddam's Anfal military campaign in the 1980s that killed an estimated 100,000 Kurds.

Some Sunnis rejected the removal of the stars, which refer to pan-Arabism promoted by Egypt's Gamal Abdel Nasser in the 1960s, and still hoist that banner.

The adoption of a new flag would be the last of several revisions - and one failed American-supervised redesign - of Iraq's national symbol over the decades from monarchy to military rule to the rise and fall of Saddam's regime.