Spain apologizes to Iraq for using Saddam-era flag

Published 01.02.2019 00:14

Spain has officially apologized to Iraq for "mistakenly" flying an Iraqi flag from the Baath regime on the plane of Spanish King Felipe VI during his visit to Baghdad on Wednesday.

Upon arrival, an Iraqi flag from the Baath regime era was seen flying through the pilot's window alongside a Spanish flag. The flag was used until 1991 when former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein added the phrase "God is great" in Arabic between the stars. After the fall of the Saddam regime, the U.S.-led interim government changed the flag, first the font of the writing and then removing the stars in 2008.

King Felipe on Wednesday visited special forces helping Iraq fight Daesh militants during the first trip by a Spanish monarch to the war-ravaged country in four decades. The king, whose country is a member of an international coalition battling Daesh, also later met with Iraqi President Barham Saleh.

Spain, which took part in the U.S.-led 2003 invasion of Iraq that overthrew Saddam Hussein, went on to support Iraqi troops as they battled to roll back Daesh, which seized a third of the country including Mosul in 2014. Hundreds of Spanish military instructors are still in the country. King Felipe is one of a series of leaders that have visited Baghdad since the start of the year, including U.S. President Donald Trump, who drew criticism for failing to meet with a single Iraqi official. Baghdad has also hosted the chief diplomats of its two main allies, Washington and Tehran, themselves bitter enemies.

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