- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Embassy topped off

Workers in Germany yesterday held a “topping-off” ceremony at the new U.S. Embassy, which is expected to open in 2008 in a historic part of Berlin once considered a no man’s land along the Berlin Wall.

U.S. Ambassador William R. Timken Jr. and Berlin Mayor Klaus Wowereit praised the construction of the new diplomatic compound as an appropriate addition to the Pariser Platz and the Brandenburg Gate, in a neighborhood that housed the old American Embassy before World War II.

Both leaders acknowledged the difficulty of planning for the new embassy and meeting U.S. security requirements after the bombings of the American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998.

“We were determined to have an embassy that was safe and secure but in harmony with the architecture of this very historic place,” Mr. Timken said, according to reports from Berlin.

“We also wanted a building that would reflect America. We are convinced this building will do that.”

Workers placed a small cupola of evergreen garlands and ribbons of red, white and blue. Topping-off ceremonies traditionally commemorate the completion of the outside construction of a building.

Mr. Wowereit noted, “Today Pariser Platz and the Brandenburg Gate are symbols of German unity, of peace in Europe. The American Embassy belongs on this square. I am sure that the decision that was made after difficult debates and conflicts was the right one.”

Construction on the embassy began in 2004, after the city of Berlin and State Department officials resolved disputes over U.S. demands for a 100-foot security zone around the building. That would have required rerouting a main street through the capital and encroached on Tiergarten Park and the future site of a Holocaust museum.

Colin L. Powell,when he was secretary of state, approved a compromise that reduced the size of the security zone and included security measures such as thicker walls and bulletproof windows.

The 41/4-story building will be surrounded by a band of trees, gardens and walkways. The architecture is “historically sensitive” to the neighborhood, the embassy said.

Architectural drawings of the embassy can be viewed at its Web site (https://berlin.usembassy.gov/germany/new_embassy.html).

East Timor trouble

East Timor could degenerate into further chaos unless bitter political rivals work together to prevent another outbreak of violence, the International Crisis Group (ICG) said in a report released yesterday.

Gunbattles erupted in the Southeast Asia island nation’s capital, Dili, in March after Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri announced plans to dismiss about a third of the army. Shootouts between disgruntled troops and police left 30 persons dead and forced 150,000 to flee their homes.

The roots of the crisis “lie further back in battles and betrayals during resistance to the Indonesian occupation,” the think tank said, referring to the 24 years of brutal Indonesian rule that ended with a referendum on independence in 1999 sanctioned by the United Nations.

“Add to this the inbred nature of a tiny political elite … and you have a recipe for disaster,” said Sidney Jones, the ICG project director for Southeast Asia.

The island returned to calm after U.N. peacekeepers arrived, but violence could break out again after the release of a report expected this week by an independent inquiry commission appointed by the United Nations.

The U.N. report will recommend criminal charges against up to 100 people, including top leaders and security officials, according to a report in the Sydney, Australia, Morning Herald.

The ICG called for “comprehensive” reform of the police and army, and better oversight of the courts.

“But with elections due in May 2007, it will also depend on reform within the dominant party, [Revolutionary Front of Independent East Timor, or FRETILIN], and on the willingness of key political actors to sit down together and agree on solutions,” the ICG said.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@washingtontimes.com.


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