The Eclipse: Iraq - World shares a strange ceremony of science, superstition and awe

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IRAQI ASTRONOMERS were given unimpeded views of the last solar eclipse of the century yesterday as Western warplanes skirted their camp.

Despite United States and British rejections of an Iraqi appeal to halt their patrols over the no-fly zone, observers at the camp at Dair Matti, 30km from the country's second biggest city, Mosul, reported clear skies. A spokesman for the US and British forces said that Western aircraft patrolled northern Iraq as usual.

Muslims in Iraq and Iran performed the namaz-e ayat, a special prayer offered at times of extraordinary natural phenomena to celebrate God's glory and power - although many Iraqis obeyed the Ministry of Health's warning that they should stay at home to avoid the dangers of looking at the Sun.