Plans to Open U.S. Embassy in Baghdad 'Well on Track'
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, June 9, 2004 After June 30 the American and Iraqi governments will conduct diplomatic business "as equals," the U.S. State Department's coordinator for Iraq transition said here today.
Ambassador Frank Ricciardone and retired Army Lt. Gen. Mick Kicklighter, director of the Defense Department's Iraq Transition Team, have been working since January on planning for the new U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. The pair briefed reporters about the status of their mission at a State Department news conference.
"When July rolls around, there will be very little left to be done, as we start supporting a U.S. Embassy supporting a sovereign nation," Kicklighter explained, noting planning for opening the embassy "is well on track."
Ricciardone said the State Department "will be up to the challenges" in Iraq. The mission of the embassy staff, he noted, is "to carry on a daily conversation" with the Iraqi government.
"Our embassies offer support to the governments of our allies and our friends and the pursuit of interests in which we share," Ricciardone added. U.S. embassies work cooperatively with host governments "always as equals," Ricciardone continued, "to resolve issues when our respective national interests diverge, or seem to."
American diplomats, Ricciardone pointed out, mostly "do a lot of listening to the people of the governments to which we're accredited." Though U.S. diplomats don't tell sovereign governments what to do, he said, embassy staffers "do tell America's story" and take pains to explain American values and objectives. American diplomats, he added, also are interested in other nations' values, objectives and points of view.
The State Department, Ricciardone said, will assume authority for Iraq construction projects from the Coalition Provisional Authority after it's dissolved in conjunction with the June 30 transfer of sovereignty. He estimated the CPA has now obligated $8 billion in reconstruction monies up until the end of June, leaving about $10.4 billion in a fund created to rebuild Iraq.