Baghdad Green Zone set to open around the clock

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Baghdad’s high-security Green Zone, home to the Iraqi parliament and US embassy, will be opened to traffic around the clock from Tuesday, the government said.

“From the first day of Eid al-Fitr” marking the end of the month of fasting for Ramadan, “the Green Zone will be completely open”, Prime Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi’s office said in a statement.

“By doing this, we are showing that we are convinced the security situation is better” in Baghdad, Abdel Mahdi told a news conference on Monday evening.

The Green Zone has been heavily fortified since the US-led invasion that overthrew dictator Saddam Hussein in 2003, with nearly all Iraqis denied access to its 10 square kilometers. It is where US forces set up their barracks before withdrawing in 2011.

The US embassy is still located in the zone, but a large number of staff considered “non-essential” were withdrawn in mid-May over alleged threats from Iran.

In recent months, the Baghdad municipality and Special Forces have removed thousands of concrete blocks surrounding the Green Zone and other parts of the capital.

A year and a half after Iraq declared victory over ISIS, violence has fallen significantly across the country, especially in Baghdad.

The United Nations mission in Iraq has stopped publishing a monthly count of deaths from violence in the country.

Since Abdel Mahdi’s appointment as prime minister in October, the weekly cabinet meeting has been held outside the Green Zone, while his official meetings still take place inside the zone.