Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Iraq to say it with flowers at Baghdad festival

BAGHDAD (Agence France Press) – Iraq unveiled on Tuesday ambitious plans for an international flower exhibition, the first in the country's history, to be held in Baghdad's biggest park next month. "We have invited French and European companies and a number of Arab and regional states to the festival," municipal council spokesman Hakim Abdel Zahra said of the event, which will have both a cultural and a commercial objective. "We chose April because it is the month when everyone celebrates spring and when life is reborn," he said. "For us it corresponds with an improvement in the security situation, and we want the world to be a witness." The week-long festival will start on April 15, and a main stage and exhibition stands are being built at Zawra Park in central Baghdad. "Baghdad is doing a great job to create a ceremony that includes the work of Arab, Islamic, and European countries, as well as the Iraqi provinces," Zahra said, noting that better security would hopefully help draw foreign companies seeking Iraqi clients and local crowds. "The security situation is good, and the municipality will cooperate with the security forces to provide necessary security measures," he said. During the bombing of Baghdad in the 2003 US-led invasion, Baghdadis commonly visited flower-sellers and nurseries to buy flowers and small garden plants to be left as symbols of their life, were they to be killed. Zawra Park reopened last July, more than five years after the invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein. It features a zoo, swimming pool and a promenade which is particularly popular during religious and national holidays.

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