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U.S. to spend another $21M on embassy in Jerusalem

By Daniel Uria
U.S. to spend another $21M on embassy in Jerusalem
The U.S. State Department awarded a Maryland-based firm a $21.2 million contract to construct an "addition and compound security upgrades" at the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem. Photo by Abir Sultan/EPA

July 17 (UPI) -- The U.S. State Department awarded a firm in Maryland a $21.2 million contract for the second phase of construction of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem, a cost several times higher than President Donald Trump touted he'd spend the project.

Documents filed with the official database of federal spending show Baltimore-based Desbuild Limak D&K was given the contract to construct an "addition and compound security upgrades" at the embassy.

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The updates will be made for the Arnona building in Jerusalem, the embassy's temporary location.

The figure exceeds estimates Trump made for the cost of the project after saying he cut the budget from $1 billion to $250,000, during a meeting at the White House with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in March.

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"We're going to have it built very quickly and very inexpensively," Trump said at the time. "They put an order in front of my desk last week for $1 billion. I said, 'A billion? What's that for? We're going to build an embassy.' I said, 'We're not going to spend $1 billion.' We're actually doing it for about $250,000."

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He later updated the estimated cost to between $300,000 and $400,000 while speaking at a press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in April.

"That's the way government works," Trump said. "They were going to spend a billion dollars and we are going to spend much less than a half a million."

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A State Department representative told CNN Trump's estimate only covered the first phase of modifications to the former consular building, not the second phase of renovations.

"As the president stated, the cost of initial modifications made to permit the embassy to open on May 14 was approximately $400,000. Following the May 14 opening, we have moved on to planning for and construction of a new extension and security enhancements at the interim site," the representative said.

The representative added the $21.2 million awarded to Desbuild Limak "is dedicated to the design and building of this second phase."

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