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Iraqi sovereignty won't extend online

When an interim government takes over from the U.S.-led occupation next week, Iraq will regain its place among the world's sovereign nations -- except on the Internet. More than 240 places have their own two-letter Internet country codes, from ".ac" for Ascension Island to ".zw" for Zimbabwe. There's even ".ps" for the Palestinian territories.

But the domain assigned to Iraq, ".iq," is stuck in a strange bureaucratic limbo -- the company that had administered it is under U.S. criminal indictment -- and could remain there for months. As a result, if Iraq's government, national institutions or regular Iraqis want a Web site, they need to use international domains, such as ".com," ".org" or ".net", which are maintained in the United States.

"To me, having 'iq' is probably one of the most important steps toward giving Iraq its identity and independence," said Hisham Ashkouri, an Iraqi-born architect who has lived in the United States since 1972 and is designing several projects for Baghdad. "The information technology part today is extremely important."

In 1997, when Saddam Hussein's dictatorship was blocking the Internet, an ICANN body granted responsibility for the ".iq" domain to InfoCom Corp., a Texas-based company that sold computers and Web services in the Middle East. The domain's "technical contact" was listed as Bayan Elashi, InfoCom's chief executive. In 2002, a grand jury indicted InfoCom, Elashi and four of his brothers on charges that they exported computer equipment to Libya and Syria and funneled money to a member of the Islamic extremist group Hamas. Trial for the Elashi brothers began this month in Dallas.

A Google search for sites in the domain yields only 20 links, all unavailable. In comparison, there are at least 290,000 in Iran's domain, ".ir," and more than 34 million in Britain's ".uk."

News source: CNN

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