Iraq opens Baghdad’s Green Zone to traffic

The crossed-sword archways Saddam Hussein commissioned during Iraq’s nearly eight-year war with Iran stand defiantly on a little-used parade ground inside the Green Zone. (File photo: AP)

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi on Sunday announced that Baghdad's "Green Zone" was open to the public for the first time in 12 years, albeit with many remaining restrictions.

The roughly 10-square-kilometre (four square miles), heavily fortified area in the heart of Baghdad is home to the country's top political institutions and embassies.

"The prime minister opened the Green Zone to public passage and people in their vehicles came in droves," a statement from Abadi's office said.

"The opening of the Green Zone is one of the measures we promised the people and we are opening it now," Abadi was quoted as saying in the statement.

The measure offers limited access to the vast area, with most streets still requiring a special badge, but it is likely to be popular nonetheless and ease traffic in the city.

The International Zone of Baghdad was already the seat of government power under former president Saddam Hussein and became known as the Green Zone after the 2003 U.S. invasion.

The area, nestled in a bend of the Tigris, was then sealed off to the public and became the headquarters of Iraq's new rulers.

Its foreign residents still sometimes refer to what lies outside as the "Red Zone".

The Green Zone is home to the offices of the president, the prime minister, to parliament, the country's top courts, as well as the U.S. embassy, which is the world's largest.

Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:46 - GMT 06:46