Image: Opening of new U.S. Embassy in Baghdad
Erik De Castro  /  Reuters
U.S. soldiers salute and other visitors stand at attention as an American flag is raised at the formal opening of the new U.S. Embassy in Baghdad's fortified Green Zone on Monday. news services
updated 1/5/2009 8:09:02 AM ET 2009-01-05T13:09:02

The United States opened its new embassy building in Baghdad on Monday, a step meant to symbolize its transition from occupying power to an ally of a sovereign Iraqi government.

U.S. Marines raised the flag over the largest U.S. Embassy in the world during a ceremony in the courtyard of the large complex that will have working space for more than 1,000 people.

The embassy sits on a 104-acre site in the heavily fortified Green Zone and cost more than $700 million to build.

"It is from here men and women, civilian and military, will help build the new Iraq," said U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte, who also served as ambassador to Iraq in 2005.

U.S. ambassador Ryan Crocker called the embassy's opening "a new era for Iraq and United States relations."

Iraqi President Jalal Talabani thanked the United States for helping create a democratic Iraq "which will serve as a model for other peoples of the eastern world."

'Reflects a more normal situation'
The embassy has 1,200 employees, including diplomats, servicemen and staff from 14 federal agencies, U.S. embassy spokeswoman Susan Ziadeh told Reuters.

"Its scale reflects the importance of the U.S.-Iraq bilateral relationship," she said. "It reflects a more normal situation. This is a broadening of the relationship because the situation is more secure."

U.S. forces on New Year's Day handed over responsibility to Iraqi troops for the Green Zone, a fortified compound in the heart of Baghdad off limits to most Iraqis, who have widely viewed it as a symbol of foreign military occupation.

The U.S. force in Iraq, now more than 140,000 strong, had previously operated under a U.N. Security Council resolution.

Security pact
U.S. troops now work under the authority granted by the Iraqi government under a pact agreed by Washington and Baghdad.

That pact -- viewed by both countries as a milestone in restoring Iraqi sovereignty -- requires U.S. troops to leave in three years, revokes their power to hold Iraqis without charge and subjects contractors and off-duty troops to Iraqi law.

Ziadeh said the mission of the new embassy would start to resemble those in other embassies around the world.

"Our work is looking at a whole range of issues on trade, on energy ... transportation sectors, rule of law," she said.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.


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