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Duluth gets a new sibling: City officially adopts sister city in Iraq

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The city of Duluth will get its fifth sister city Monday.

Duluth Sister Cities International is signing the legal agreement between the city and Rania, Iraqi Kurdistan, at Duluth City Hall Monday morning, according to a release on the organization's website.

It's Duluth's first new sister city in 24 years, and its first in the Middle East, the website notes.

Duluth Mayor Don Ness will sign the formal agreement with Hiwa Qarani, the mayor of Rania, who will appear over Skype, the organization says. Qarani had hoped to attend the ceremony in person, but the mayor had difficulties obtaining a visa, the Duluth News Tribune says.

Duluth's history with Rania goes back a few years. The University of Minnesota Duluth hosted a professor from the city, and in 2013, members of Duluth's Echoes of Peace Choir traveled there, Duluth Sister Cities International says. When they returned, Ness and the Duluth City Council approved entering into a formal sister city relationship.

The hope is Duluth will gain a better understanding of the people and Kurdish, Iraqi, and Middle Eastern cultures, Sister Cities International noted.

Rania, located in northern Iraq, has a population of 95,000, most of whom are Muslim, the organization says. The city is surrounded by mountains, rivers and lakes, and has an economy based on agriculture, trade, industries including oil refinery and mining, as well as livestock that includes sheep, goats, cows and bee keeping.

What is a sister city?

Duluth Sister Cities International is part of the nonprofit Sister Cities International, which was created by President Dwight Eisenhower following World War II, the organization's website notes.

Eisenhower's hope was that connecting people from different communities around the world would lessen the chance for conflicts in the future.

The organization's mission is to "promote peace through mutual respect, understanding and cooperation – one individual, one community at a time." (Read more about Sister Cities International's history here.)

The United States has 545 sister cities, counties, and states, with 2,121 partnerships in 145 countries on six continents, the nonprofit notes. Nineteen Minnesota cities are participating in the program, partnering with 42 cities across the world.

Duluth has four other sister cities, including Isumi-shi, Japan; Vaxjo, Sweden; Thunder Bay, Canada; and Petrozavodsk, Russia.

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