Monday, January 05, 2004

It is a sign of how far southern Iraq has come that while Tony Blair was addressing the troops yesterday Iraqi tourists were taking a pleasure cruise past Saddam's ruined yacht.

"I left Iraq 22 years ago because of Saddam," said Mohammad Ali, a chemistry teacher on a cruise with his Iranian wife and family. "I'm so happy to be back. The British did us a favour. They got rid of the biggest dictator in the Middle East."

In contrast to the daily mayhem in the rest of Iraq, the British-occupied south of the country is - comparatively - a tranquil place. Locals hope it could eventually regain its reputation as Iraq's riviera.

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