During the 1990s, passports were quite expensive for most Iraqis to acquire and travel abroad. Now it has supposedly become easier for Iraqis to acquire a passport.

To apply for one of the new passports, which are similar in appearance to the previous issue but without a picture of former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein, Iraqis need a certificate of nationality and a paper proving residency.

The passports cost around $100, applicants said.

There was a mixture of expectation and agitation among those waiting their turn under the blazing midday sun on Saturday.

Reasons for seeking the new passports are varied.

"This country is lost. I am telling you, it is completely lost. It is not ours any more," said 25-year-old Mahdi Salim, a part-time worker.

"Those who came after Saddam are gangs and thieves and they are no better than him," he said, adding that he would prefer to live in the United Arab Emirates.

Religious visits

While some said they wanted the document just to be able to flee the country, others had religious reasons.

More than 30 women wearing black veils said they had been standing in the sun for more than four hours waiting for their turn to apply so they can travel to visit holy sites in Iran.

"They want to try Saddam? I think they should try to bring us electricity, water and security first ... These are more important things. These matter to us more.

Jasim Adnan

Some expressed anger at the lack of basic services like power and security.

"I can't find a job here and it is not safe any more. I want to find another place. I want to have a decent life," said Jasim Adnan.

"They want to try Saddam? I think they should try to bring us electricity, water and security first ... These are more important things. These matter to us more. At least these could keep us here." 

Others were simply thinking of taking a holiday abroad.

"I want to go on vacation with my family to Syria. We need a break. All of this going on is making us nervous," said Nur, a young woman fanning herself with her official papers.

Iraqi women are also eager to get
passports to travel abroad

"We never had passports. No one in my family did because we never thought we would need it. But now I think it's about time we took the children out, even if it is only for a while," said Nur's mother, Um Waa-il.

Naimah Khattab, 60, said she was applying because she wanted to travel to the US to see her son and his family.

"I haven't seen them for more than 15 years. I am so happy," she said.

New ambassadors

Iraq will soon name ambassadors to 43 countries around the world, including neighbours such as Iran and Syria as well as Far Eastern and European states, interim Foreign Minister Hushiar Zibari said Saturday.

 

The interim government ultimately plans to re-open some 77 embassies globally and venture into new countries in a bid to rebuild its tattered image, the minister said.

 

"Our top priority is to re-establish Iraq's international representation and soon I am going to make an announcement to appoint 43 ambassadors in order to enhance the new Iraqi government's standing and image of doing business," Zibari told AFP in an interview.

 

The 43 nominees include career diplomats at the foreign ministry as well as political appointees connected to the new Iraqi government and various political parties.

 

"We try to make it totally representative of the new Iraq," Zibari said, without revealing any of the names.

 

The minister said that about 20 Arab countries would be included on the list of ambassadors as well as Islamic and neighbouring countries such as Iran, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Syria.

 

Diplomatic ties with Kuwait and Saudi Arabia have been cut off since 1991 after Iraqi troops overran Kuwait, the foreign minister said while noting, "both countries have sent encouraging messages that they are interested to re-establish full diplomatic relations."