The Iraqi version of reality TV show Pop Idol has attracted record numbers of viewers since it was launched - and it is credited with boosting morale in the troubled country.

IRAQ STAR was commissioned by al-Sumeria TV earlier this year (05), after Britain's POP IDOL and American Idol proved popular with Iraq's satellite viewers.

The talent-show, which sees over 2,000 hopefuls auditioning to become Iraq's hottest new singing talent, mirrors the original programming formula - with it's own acid-tongued judge to replace Mr Nasty Simon Cowell.

But the final stages of the show, which sees contestants eliminated one-by-one, cannot be held in front of a live studio audience because of security risks.

Director WADIA NADER believes the show has managed to perk up spirits within the depressed nation.

He says, "We've lived through many wars. We're trying to help ease the burden and troubles of our people."