U.S. embassy in Iraq's opening on hold
The opening of the mammoth new U.S. Embassy in Baghdad has been postponed indefinitely while its Kuwaiti contractor fixes a long list of problems, a State Department spokesman said Tuesday. However, the department official in charge of the project said the delay would only last a few more weeks.
The sprawling complex, the cost of which is edging toward $750 million, was set to open in September, but U.S. lawmakers say the contractor's shoddy work and poor oversight by the State Department have delayed it.
State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said he didn't know when the new embassy will open. "We're not going to buy ourself a turkey here," he said. "We're going to make sure that we get what we paid for."
Charles Williams, director of the State Department's overseas building operations, told USA TODAY the opening was delayed after a recent inspection found a flawed fire-protection system and other deficiencies that were "not unusual for any construction project."
Williams said he ordered the contractor to replace the entire fire-protection system at no additional cost, and the project will be finalized later this month. The delay was shorter than those seen during recent construction of smaller embassies, he said.
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Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., said the project was now $144 million more than the original $592 million budget allocated by Congress. Waxman, who heads the House oversight committee, sent a letter to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Tuesday asking her to explain the delay and accusing her department of inadequate oversight.
McCormack said original specifications of the contract changed because more office and living space was needed for civilian and military staff. "It is not a cost overrun. It is an additional contract requirement," he said.
U.S. embassy in Iraq's opening on hold - USATODAY.com