-- After months of debate on Georgia's flag, state lawmakers struck a compromise today -- a new flag that echoes an old Confederate flag but does not include the divisive Dixie battle emblem.

Gov. Sonny Perdue (R), who had proposed a statewide referendum on the flag dispute after his upset victory last November, is endorsing a new design similar to the national flag of the Confederacy -- the "stars and bars" -- rather than the more familiar battle flag.

The state legislature, led by former governor Roy Barnes (D), had voted in 2001 to shrink the Confederate battle emblem on the state flag to postcard size. Public fury over the flag change helped Perdue beat Barnes.

The new flag design, approved by the House Rules Committee today, resembles the Confederacy's first national flag -- three red and white stripes, with a blue field in the top left corner. The state seal would be in that corner, and "In God We Trust" would be written in the middle white stripe.

In March 2004, a public referendum would let voters decide whether to keep that flag. If voters reject the new flag, a second referendum would be held, asking if voters want to return to the Georgia flag dominated by the Confederate battle emblem.