Drawings of new U.S. Embassy in Iraq released on Web

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A U.S. architectural firm posted drawings of the new U.S. Embassy being built in Baghdad on its Web site, prompting complaints from U.S. officials on Friday that their release could endanger U.S. personnel.

The firm appeared to have removed from its Web site the preliminary drawings of the grounds and some buildings in what will be one of the largest and most expensive U.S. embassies in the world but they remained widely available on blogs.

An employee of Kansas City, Missouri-based Berger Devine Yaeger Inc. declined to comment and referred inquiries about the drawings, which included an aerial sketch of the new embassy compound, to the State Department.

“We, just as a matter of practice, normally don’t put up plans or designs for our diplomatic facilities, just for security reasons,” said State Department spokesman Tom Casey.

“The fact that some of this material had been out in the public domain is something that our security folks will have to take into consideration ... but it hasn’t in any fundamental way altered our plans,” he added.

“It’s best not to have that kind of information out in the public domain,” said another U.S. official, who asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the matter.

This official called the drawings preliminary and said they did not show exactly what was being built at the new compound, which is in the so-called Green Zone in Baghdad that houses the existing U.S. Embassy and top Iraqi officials.

While the heavily fortified Green Zone is largely spared from violence that plagues other parts of Baghdad, it is routinely subject to mortar attacks.

The Bush administration initially sought $1.3 billion for the new embassy but Congress has approved $592 million and lawmakers have questioned the cost and size of the complex.

Additional reporting by Richard Cowan