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Plans afoot to move U.S. Embassy in London?

The American embassy in London, which has been considered a prime target for militants since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, could be moved to a new location, U.S. officials said Thursday.
An armed police officer stands guard on a street leading to the U.S. Embassy in London in March 2004 during the aftermath of the Madrid train bombings.
An armed police officer stands guard on a street leading to the U.S. Embassy in London in March 2004 during the aftermath of the Madrid train bombings.Richard Lewis / AP file
/ Source: Reuters

The American embassy in London, which has been considered a prime target for militants since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, could be moved to a new location, U.S. officials said Thursday.

The embassy, one of the largest U.S. diplomatic buildings in the world housing about 750 staff in over 600 rooms on nine floors, has been situated in Grosvenor Square in the upmarket Mayfair area of the capital since 1938.

But concerns over its protection have led officials to ponder a move.

"The U.S. Embassy (USE) is assessing various property management options, among which are continued possession of its current premises or relocation," the embassy said in a statement.

"The U.S. Embassy has made no decisions and is in a very preliminary stage of this process," the statement said.

It also denied speculation linking it with a move to Chelsea Barracks, a historic former British army barracks near the River Thames.

Unhappy neighbors?
The issue of security at the embassy has not only worried U.S. diplomats but also raised the heckles of its neighbors living in multimillion dollar homes.

Local residents have argued that they are at risk because the British authorities have not done enough to protect the area surrounding the embassy from an attack.

Their fears were increased after four British Muslims carried out suicide bomb attacks on London's transport network in July 2005.

The embassy's diplomats have also got involved with a spat with the capital's outspoken mayor over claims it owes nearly $2 million in congestion charges — a daily fee imposed on all vehicles that drive in central London.

The embassy, like those of some other countries, has refused to pay the charge since July 2005 arguing it is a tax from which diplomats are exempt.

London Mayor Ken Livingstone disputes that and says the United States is the worst offender.