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The handover of the Green Zone

I've been talking to generals - American and Iraqi - about the meaning of the changes in US status agreed in the new status of forces agreement. The International Zone - known informally as the Green Zone - will revert to Iraqi control on Dec. 31 but no one knows if they can secure it.

The Iraqi government will supposedly be taking down all the high concrete blast walls that zigzag around and through the area, and reopening roads that once ran through. No one knows how the parliament, other government buildings and foreign embassies will then be guarded.

No one knows yet who will move into the grandiose palace, with its acres of marble floors and walls and enormous marble bathrooms.

All US civilian personel are moving this month from one of Saddam's famous palaces to the New Embassy complex along the Tigris, blocks of buildings with offices and apartments that look like a prison. More to the point, they are directly across the river from a row of famous and refurbished fish restaurants and a playground, where Iraqis now dine al fresco and stroll and play by the river.

How easy it would be to fire across that river. It is hard to see how this new complex will be secured.