Opens First American Embassy in Baghdad in Over a Decade||
As part of Monday's handover of sovereignty in Iraq, the State Department opens
its first U.S. Embassy in Baghdad since the Gulf War in 1991.
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The U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority ended its formal occupation of Iraq
on Monday when it handed over control of the country to members of Iraq's interim
official transfer, which had been scheduled for Wednesday, was held two days earlier
in a secret ceremony in Baghdad in order to deter possible plans by militants
to sabotage the handover, U.S. officials said.
"This is a historic
and happy day for us in Iraq," said interim President Ghazi Mashal Ajil al-Yawer.
"It is a day that all Iraqis have been looking forward to. This is the day
that we take our country back into the international community."
||The new U.S.
Embassy in Iraq
As part of the transfer, the United States has opened the doors to one of its
largest embassies in the world and the first U.S. embassy in Iraq in over a decade.
The embassy's diplomatic staff will replace the coalition's administrative staff
and will become the main non-military, or civil, U.S. presence in Iraq.
Newly appointed U.S.
Ambassador to Iraq John Negroponte will head the embassy and will take over from
U.S. administrator Paul Bremer as the top American official in the country. On
Monday, Bremer handed the transfer document to the head of Iraq's Supreme Court
before he boarded a plan and left.
Negroponte, who the Iraqi people must officially accept in a
formal "presentation of credentials" ceremony, will
lead a staff of 1,700 employees, including about 1,000 Americans
and 700 Iraqis, according to the State Department. He arrived
in Baghdad on Monday.
a NewsHour interview, Negroponte said the new embassy would help prepare Iraq
politically for upcoming elections, establish security in the country and it would
help rebuild its economic and physical structure using an $18.4 billion budget
allotted by Congress.
"My role in Iraq will be fundamentally different
from that of Ambassador Bremer," said Negroponte at his Senate confirmation
hearing on June 23. "Whereas the CPA is the ultimate political authority
in Iraq, the embassy will be in a supportive, as opposed to a commanding, role,"
role of a U.S. Embassy|
U.S. embassies abroad fall under the head of the State Department and in general
serve as diplomatic liaisons between the United States and the host country. The
United States has about 250 "missions" or embassy offices around the
world, and staff generally include the ambassador who leads the embassy, the deputy
chief of missions who handles daily operations, and commercial, economic, agricultural,
political and administrative staff.
In Iraq, James Jeffrey, the former U.S.
ambassador to Albania, has already begun serving as the deputy chief of missions
The State Department lists the following tasks as some of the responsibilities
of its embassies: prevention of war; advancing democracy and human rights; establishing
economic opportunities for Americans; promoting the safety of Americans abroad;
and helping refugees.
Embassy staff also issue passports, provide travel
information, help if a U.S. citizen is arrested or dies abroad, and evacuate U.S.
citizens from areas of conflict, according to the State Department's Web site.
concerns for embassy staff|
In addition to the main headquarters in Baghdad, the new Iraqi embassy will
have four regional offices, or consulates, in various cities around Iraq. The
offices will be the first to open in Iraq since 1991 when the United States evacuated
embassy staff leading up to the Gulf War. The role of the new embassy will also
be unique because of the presence of about 138,000 American soldiers in Iraq.
for the safety of the new Iraqi embassy staff is running very high. Since the
end of the war, hundreds of people, including civilians, have been killed in attacks
led by militants opposed to the U.S. occupation of the country.
are also hoping to avoid a repeat of deadly bombings at U.S. embassies in the
African cities of Dar es Sallam, Tanzania and Nairobi, Kenya, where 231 people,
including 12 Americans, died in 1988. Four suspected al-Qaida terrorists were
sentenced for the crime.
And in April last year, a car bomb exploded outside
the Jordanian embassy in Baghdad, killing eight people. A third bombing, at the
U.N. headquarters in Iraq in August, killed Sergio Vieira de Mello, the U.N. special
representative to Iraq, along with 14 others.
top priority is to keep our people safe," said the State Department's chief
of political affairs Marc Grossman in a May briefing about the new embassy. "This
is a dangerous mission. We have already begun the security upgrade of the planned
interim embassy buildings, and have selected a site for a future new embassy compound
based largely on its security features."
"Iraq is, and for
some time will remain, a dangerous place to live and work," he added.
site of the new embassy|
Because of the security concerns, the Baghdad embassy will probably be among
the most highly protected embassies in the world.
temporary embassy offices and eventually the permanent embassy structure, which
officials say they have identified, will sit in the "Green Zone," the
heavily guarded area of closed off streets in Baghdad, where American officials
live and work under tight security, according to the State Department.
Already 32 members of the Diplomatic Security Service, a group
of highly trained law enforcement officers assigned to protect
ambassadors and their employees, have arrived in Baghdad to begin
planning the embassy's security.
Kristina Nwazota, Online NewsHour