US Ambassador to Iraq Says Embassy Ready

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The U.S. ambassador to Iraq said Friday that American diplomats will start moving into the new embassy in Baghdad at the end of May, and should be safer in the more fortified complex inside the so-called Green Zone, which has been hit repeatedly by insurgent rocket fire.

The envoy, Ryan Crocker, said the buildings at the massive, Vatican-sized compound have been completed, although they have not yet all been certified for permanent occupancy even though some embassy staff are spending nights there already due to the recent attacks.

"It's been a difficult few weeks, rockets are bouncing off your buildings, and maintaining focus can be an occasional challenge," he told reporters.

"We will begin moving into the new embassy -- some of the office space and the apartments -- probably the end of next month, the beginning of June, so that will certainly improve quality of life and provide some added protection," Crocker said.

Recently, U.S. diplomats have come under increasing attack by insurgents shooting rockets inside the Green Zone. And State Department personnel had been told not to leave reinforced buildings and to wear protective helmets and body armor if they must venture outside.

The $600 million embassy project has been beset by construction, logistical and security hitches. It was orginally supposed to open last fall.


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