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IRAQ: U.S. Embassy dedicated

January 5, 2009 |  3:48 pm

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The United States formally dedicated its new $592-million embassy in Iraq on Monday, the largest and most expensive American embassy in the world.

Its scale, according to the dedication ceremony program, "reflects the importance of the U.S.-Iraqi bilateral relationship."

If superlatives were the order of the day, the ceremony reflected it. Invited guests filtered through extra tight security, walked down yards and yards of red carpet, and watched as white-gloved Marines raised a giant American flag up a massive flagpole that stretched higher than the buildings in the Embassy compound. There was even a gigantic sheet cake decorated like an American flag as big as the table it sat on.

Public officials, too, offered up superlatives on what they described as a historic day.

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Iraqi president Jalal Talabani called the new embassy a "landmark edifice," made possible only by the "courage decision by President Bush to liberate Iraq."

U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker said no single period since the U.S. led invasion of Iraq in 2003 has been more important than the last week, during which two significant events took place: the Americans handed military control back to Iraq on Jan. 1 and raised the flag on the new embassy, vacating Saddam Hussein's Republican Palace.

"Iraq is in a new era and so is the Iraqi-U.S. relationship," Crocker said.

The embassy took three years to build and will house more than 1,200 American staffers from 14 different agencies.

— Kimi Yoshino in Baghdad

Photos: Top, the new U.S. Embassy, bottom, Ambassador Ryan Crocker, left, with Iraqi Prime Minister Jalal Talabani. Credit: Eric Brooks, U.S. Embassy, Baghdad.

P.S. Get news from the Middle East in your mailbox every day. The Los Angeles Times distributes a free daily newsletter with the latest headlines from the Middle East, including the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. You can subscribe by logging in at the website here, clicking on the box for "L.A. Times updates" and then clicking on the "World: Mideast" box.

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