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Cablegate: Ambassador Opens First American Corner in Iraq

R 190815Z AUG 04
FM AMEMBASSY BAGHDAD
TO SECSTATE WASHDC 0826
INFO AMEMBASSY AMMAN
SECDEF WASHINGTON DC
WHITE HOUSE NSC WASHDC

UNCLAS BAGHDAD 000556


E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KPAO PGOV PREF KCUL IZ
SUBJECT: AMBASSADOR OPENS FIRST AMERICAN CORNER IN IRAQ

1. Summary. The Ambassador and Kurdistan Regional Government
Minister of Culture Fatah Zakhoy opened the first American
Corner in Iraq on August 8. The Corner, located in the public
library in Sulaimaniya, enables visitors to learn about the
United States and to participate in American educational and
cultural programming. End summary.

2. The new American Corner is the first such facility in the
country and is the largest cultural donation by the Embassy in
northern Iraq to date. The Corner is located on the ground
floor of the newly-built public library in Sulaimaniya, in
northeastern Iraq. The Corner includes over USD 85,000 in
books, furniture, and equipment donated by the U.S. Embassy in
Baghdad with the support of NEA/PD and Embassy Amman.

3. At the ribbon-cutting event the Ambassador told the audience
that activities at the Corner "will broaden your perspective,
deepen your knowledge, stimulate your imagination, and enrich
your experience." Minister Zakhoy welcomed the opening of the
Corner and invited residents to use it to learn more about the
United States. Media coverage of the event included all local
television channels and print publications. All coverage was
positive.

4. The Corner is staffed by English-speaking employees and
includes hundreds of volumes about the United States, a video
and DVD library, three high-speed Internet-connected computers,
and videoconferencing capabilities. Plans are already underway
to connect university professors from the United States with
professors and students at Sulaimaniya University through
videoconferencing.

5. The Sulaimaniya Public Library recently opened to the public
and currently has approximately 60,000 volumes. In addition to
the Internet machines at the Corner, it boasts the largest high-
speed Internet access point in northern Iraq with over 75
workstations (25 of which were purchased through CPA.) Internet
access is free and uncensored. In addition, the library has
three reading rooms, conference facilities, a children's
library, and a children's theater.

6. Comment. The American Corner is the largest cultural
donation by the USG in northern Iraq, a fact not lost on
Sulaimaniya's political leaders. The leaders see the Corner as
a USG statement about the relative safety of the KRG compared to
the rest of the country. The PAO has visited the Corner and
during that visit noted that the Public Affairs section in
Baghdad is committed to providing programming and staff
training. In addition, Embassy Baghdad will ensure that the
facility and its information collection remain up-to-date.


JEFFREY

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