The United States has opened its new embassy in Baghdad. U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker said the structure is a testimony to America's long-term friendship with Iraq.
"From this embassy in the years to come, we look forward to building our partnership and contributing to the future," said Mr. Crocker.
Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, who took part in the inauguration of the embassy, said "the building of this site would not be possible without the courageous decision by President [George] Bush to liberate Iraq. This building," said Mr. Talabani, "is not only a compound for the embassy but a symbol of the deep friendship between the 2 peoples of Iraq and America."
U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte served as the first U.S. ambassador to Iraq after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion. He said the New Year will bring about a transition for the U.S. from an occupying power to an ally of a sovereign Iraq. On New Year's Day, U.S. forces handed over responsibility to Iraqi troops for the Green Zone, a fortified area in the heart of Baghdad that also houses the new U.S. embassy.
U.S. forces in Iraq, now more than 140,000 strong, had previously operated under a United Nations mandate. Under a new security agreement, U.S. troops now work under the authority granted by the Iraqi government. The agreement also lays out a framework for the withdrawal of American forces in Iraq within 3 years. Such a withdrawal is possible because of the great security improvements brought about by the accomplishments of Iraqi Security Forces and their U.S. and other Coalition partners.
A second agreement between Iraq and the U.S. is the Strategic Framework agreement. It formalizes a relationship of friendship and cooperation between the U.S. and Iraq in the economic, diplomatic, cultural, and security fields.
"Iraq," said U.S. Ambassador Crocker, "has now assumed the lead for all security operations and our bilateral relationship going forward will be governed" by the 2 agreements. "Iraq is in a new era and so is the Iraqi-U.S. relationship."