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How Soon is Soon?

I reported that the State Department is confident the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad will be ready for occupancy soon and it’s really just a matter of completing a bureaucratic process. State’s proclamation is noteworthy given that department officials anonymously say that the entire fire safety system is broken. At the same time, State has not set a date. When I called back today to ask about a timetable, I was eventually referred to a Jan. 23 press briefing with Deputy Spokesman, Tom Casey. Casey’s exchange with an unidentified reporter is the department’s final word on the subject:

QUESTION: (Inaudible) detail to your comments earlier today about the completion of the United States Embassy in Baghdad.

MR. CASEY: You know, I did have a chance to talk to [State Dept. Assistant Secretary of Administration] Pat Kennedy about this a little while ago. Basically what I gave you this morning is where the process stands. We have yet to issue a certificate of occupancy for the building. That’s the last step before people can actually start to move in. There is still a number of items that are on the so-called punch list, the list of things that you go through to check and inspect before a certificate of occupancy can be issued. I know, as well, Pat reminded me that our fire team is en route to Baghdad. This is a group of people who have not been involved in the construction of the Embassy itself who are going to do a inspection of the fire safety elements of the new building which, of course, had been an issue and that I think people discussed before. So we are moving forward with this process. Again, I just want to reiterate what I did say this morning, is we don’t intend to issue that certificate of occupancy or take possession of this building until we’re sure that it meets all the standards that we set out for it in the process.

QUESTION: And what’s your latest prediction for completion, punch list, moving in?

MR. CASEY: Well, again, we want this to happen as soon as possible, but I’m not going to try and offer you a date right now

To recap: The State Dept. is saying that there’s no need to go back and make substantial improvements. They’re checking things off a list now, but they won’t pin themselves to when this will be over beyond Spokesman McInturff’s, “a few weeks.”

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