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BASRA -- People in the southern Iraqi city of Basra are now able to listen to the province's first Christian radio station, RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq (RFI) reports.

The Voice of the New Testament broadcasts mostly religious hymns and Bible readings from the station's office in Basra's National Evangelical Church.

Saad Matti Petros, the head of the Minorities Committee on the city council, told RFI that the radio station will promote the values of tolerance and peaceful coexistence in society. Petros, who is a Christian, said the opening of the radio is "a historic event" as it is the first time Basra has had a Christian radio station.

Petros insisted that the radio does not have any missionary purposes. He said the director of the radio station, Father Maher, has also signed a written statement that the broadcasts will not offend the followers of other religions.

The deputy head of the Basra city council, Sheikh Ahmad al-Sulayti, welcomed the opening of the radio station.

"We consider this a big achievement in the new Iraq," he said. "It proves there is an opening to all the other cultures [in the country]. It also reflects that
other cultures have the freedom to express themselves.... We are blessing this good step."

He added that the city council gave immediate permission for the radio station.

The new Christian radio station will be heard in most of Basra Province. It has not yet broadcasted any news but is expected to do so in the future.