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US to spend $1.5bn on new Iraq embassy

January 31, 2005

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WASHINGTON, Jan 30: The United States has selected a spot in Baghdad's top security Green zone and will spend more than $1.5 billion to build a new, fortress like embassy in the Iraqi capital, the State Department said.

The present embassy is located in temporary facilities and was not intended for a long-term use. The $1.5 billion will come out of the $80 billion supplemental budget that President Bush sought for Iraq last week.

It is unclear when the new complex will be ready. The US embassy in Iraq is the most expensive of the more than 250 missions Washington maintains abroad. In addition to the main headquarters in Baghdad, the US will also build four regional offices, or consulates, in various cities around Iraq.

The role of the US embassy is unique because of the presence of about 138,000 American soldiers in Iraq. In other countries, the embassy does not have to deal with American troops.

The State Department says safety of the new Iraqi embassy staff is its top priority. Since the end of the war, hundreds of people, including civilians, have been killed in attacks led by militants opposed to the US occupation of the country.

US officials say the new premises will have special protection arrangements to thwart bombings like those at the US embassies in East Africa that killed 231 people, including 21 Americans, in 1998. Because of the security concerns, the new embassy will probably be among the most highly protected embassies in the world, officials say.