The United States inaugurated its largest embassy ever on Monday, a fortress-like compound in the heart of the Green Zone – and the most visible sign of what U.S. officials call a new chapter in relations between America and a more sovereign Iraq.
U.S. Marines raised the American flag over the adobe-colored buildings, which sit on a 104-acre site and has space for 1,000 employees – more than 10 times the size of any other American Embassy in the world.
“Iraq is in a new era and so is the Iraqi-U.S. relationship,” Ambassador Ryan Crocker said.
Explaining the opening of such a large embassy three years before the U.S. must finish withdrawing its 146,000 troops from Iraq, Crocker said it is vital for the U.S. to remain involved in nonmilitary ways.
“I think we have seen a tremendous amount of progress,” Crocker said before the ceremony, “but the development of this new Iraq is going to be a very long time in the making, and we need to be engaged here.”
The new embassy’s exact dimensions are classified, but it is said to be six times larger than the U.N. complex in New York and more than 10 times the size of the new U.S. Embassy in Beijing, which at 10 acres is America’s second-largest mission.
Rescuers search for slide victims
Rescuers dug through tons of mud late Monday in search of more victims of a massive landslide that buried a long stretch of highway in northern Guatemala, killing at least 35 coffee workers and travelers using the road.
Vice President Rafael Espada said he feared the death toll could rise by at least a dozen more. About 15 other people were injured when the mass of mud and rock roared down a mountain Sunday near the village of Aquil Grande.
Authorities still do not know how many people were in the area when the landslide buried more than a kilometer (nearly a mile) of highway.
Pirates take boat off Nigeria
Pirates hijacked a French boat and took its nine crew members hostage in the latest attack in some of the world’s most dangerous waters off oil-rich southern Nigeria, the boat’s owner said Monday.
The captain of the Bourbon Leda was able to speak with the boat’s owners Sunday and said that all nine crew members were unharmed, according to a statement by the company, Bourbon, which provides specialist boats for the oil and gas industry. It said in the statement Monday that it was working to free the crew.
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