Iraqis in Belgrade celebrate U.S. withdrawal

BELGRADE -- The Iraqi embassy in Belgrade on Saturday organized a celebration of National Sovereignty Day at the start of withdrawal of U.S. troops from that country.

Unlike their compatriots in the home country who take it to the streets to celebrate and stay there until late in the evening, Iraqis in Serbia marked the holiday by gathering for lunch in a Belgrade restaurant, says our reporter.

They saw the beginning of the U.S. troops leaving their country as the start of a new era and a step toward freedom.

"Americans are friends of the Iraqi people because they helped Iraqis free themselves from the dictatorial regime," Jahia Salih Al-Gorani, Iraqi embassy charge d'affairs was quoted as saying. "Still, an average Iraqi does not like to see foreign troops, even when they are his friend."

The Iraqi diaspora in Serbia is made up of university educated people, who mostly came here 30 or so years ago to study, and stayed after finding jobs as professionals. They also started families here, and see Serbia as a "friendly and brotherly" country.