Iraq’s parliament prepares to leave Green Zone

BAGHDAD (Reuters) – Iraq’s parliament will relocate just outside Baghdad’s fortified Green Zone compound in September for the first time since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion, a sign security is improving, the first deputy speaker said on Tuesday.

Khalid al-Attiya said top parliamentary officials had approved moving to a newly renovated building.

The plan was made possible by a drop in violence to a four-year low, a parliamentary spokesman added.

“Tomorrow the committee of security in parliament will meet the minister of interior and defense to arrange security measures for the (new) building,” Attiya said in a statement.

The three-story building to be used is a few hundred meters from the Green Zone, but clear of checkpoints that make the heavily-protected area largely inaccessible to the general public. Numerous government offices and foreign embassies are inside the sprawling Green Zone.

Attiya said the long-term plan was to build a grander structure for parliament on the banks of the Tigris River.

Mohammed Abu Bakr, a parliamentary spokesman, said it had always been parliament’s intention to move but lawmakers were waiting for violence to ease.

“Moving means there is improvement in security and we are getting closer to the people. This is what parliaments all over the world need to do,” he said.

Highlighting the fragility of security improvements in Baghdad, a car bomb in the northwestern al-Hurriya district killed 11 people and wounded 42 on Tuesday, police said.

“We don’t want to say we have no security fears, but we bet more that the situation will improve,” Abu Bakr said.}

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