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Astonished Lionel Richie hits big time again as an Iraq and roll star

Iran and Iraq have had their differences, but both are united in rapture over the love songs of Lionel Richie -- to the astonishment of the soul legend.

Over the past decade, the 'Hello' singer has become a phenomenon across the Arab world. Iraqis who speak no English can still sing the entire Richie songbook.

In the Kurdistan city of Erbil, authors read their poetry to interpretations of songs by Richie (63) at a literary festival held this year.

Richie's popularity extends from Iran to Libya, where he performed for Colonel Gaddafi, and the Gulf states, where Saudi royals frequently invite him to sing at private parties.

"This is probably the most fascinating experience of my career," said the artist who has sold 100 million records. "The music has found its way to the Middle East. It comes down to 'I Love You'. That crosses every border."

The former Commodores star would like to play a show in Baghdad."The region is opening up and they really want me to come there. It makes me very proud," he said.

Richie paid a flying visit to Iraq last year when he dropped in on the Iowa National Guard's Bravo Company.

The unit adopted his 'All Night Long' as their motto and produced merchandise depicting the lyrics and Richie's face.

(© Independent News Service)

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