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Bloated diplomatic presence in Iraq to shrink

Feb. 7, 2012 at 4:56 PM

BAGHDAD, Feb. 7 (UPI) -- In a sign of declining U.S. influence, the State Department is preparing to cut its diplomatic presence in Iraq, a State Department spokesman said Tuesday.

The staff of the new $750 million U.S. embassy, the largest of its kind in the world, has grown to 16,000 people, The New York Times reported.

While U.S. troops were withdrawn two months ago, the build-up of the diplomatic and contractor corps, and what the State Department perceives as Iraqi obstruction in matters such as food delivery and the approval of visas for Americans, is causing a re-thinking of the post-war mission.

Michael McClellan, an embassy spokesman, said in a statement consideration is being given to ways "to appropriately reduce the size of the U.S. mission in Iraq, primarily by decreasing the number of contractors needed to support the embassy's operations."

The Times said the number of personnel could be reduced by half.

The size of the staff is remarkable when compared to embassies elsewhere. The report said the American embassy in Turkey employs only 55 people, and fewer than 10 are actual diplomats.

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