- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 7, 2008

EMBASSY GOLD

The U.S. ambassador to China gave the new American Embassy the diplomatic equivalent of a gold medal as he hosted a preview of the compound this week in preparation for the dedication Friday on the opening day of the Beijing Olympics.

“This spectacular new embassy complex will provide the United States government with a platform appropriate for the most important bilateral relationship of the 21st century, the U.S.-Chinese relationship,” Ambassador Clark T. Randt Jr. told reporters on a media tour of the diplomatic mission.

“I take great personal pride in welcoming all of you to our magnificent new and state-of-the-art United States Embassy Beijing complex,” he said.

President Bush, who is traveling to the Chinese capital for the opening ceremonies of the Olympics, is scheduled to attend the dedication of the embassy.

With 600,000 square feet of office space, the compound will be home to 1,100 employees from 26 U.S. agencies now scattered across 22 locations in Beijing. The embassy complex includes an eight-story main chancery building, a three-story atrium office building, a consular building, a parking garage and a Marine guard security quarters. They are joined by gardens, courtyards, wooden bridges and a lotus pond.

The main chancery building is sided in transparent, translucent and opaque glass that will change the image of the building as light changes during the day. A State Department description of the building noted it will “glow like lantern or beacon” at night.

The consular building sweeps over the lotus pond and is also covered in glass panels that will show off embassy artwork, including pieces by sculptor Jeff Koons, Chinese artist Cai Guo-Qiang and Maya Lin, who designed the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial Wall in Washington.

The complex, which cost $434 million and sits on 10 acres of land northeast of the ancient Forbidden City, is the second-largest U.S. embassy in the world after the one in Iraq. It was built by the Zachry Construction Corp. of San Antonio and Caddel Construction of Montgomery, Ala., and overseen by the State Department’s Bureau of Overseas Buildings.

Mr. Randt noted the embassy took 15 years of planning and negotiating with the Chinese government and four years to build.

“Our new embassy, together with the impressive new Chinese Embassy in Washington, which was dedicated July 29, are tangible symbols of the growth and importance of our bilateral relationship,” he said.

BANGLADESH VOTES

The U.S. Embassy in Bangladesh on Wednesday congratulated the South Asian nation on free and fair elections conducted by a military-backed interim government that took power in January 2007, after widespread political violence.

“We commend the Election Commission for its professional administration of these elections, which were an important step for the parliamentary polls and restoration of a democratically elected government in Bangladesh,” an embassy spokesman said.

Bangladeshis voted Monday in local elections and are scheduled to vote for a new parliament in December.

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