The United States opened a consulate Tuesday in Basra, the first such diplomatic presence in the southern Iraqi city in more than four decades; the last U.S. consulate in Basra closed in 1967.
The new consulate comes days after the United States handed over three joint security stations in southern Iraq to Iraqi authorities as part of the American troop withdrawal from Iraq.
It will serve the four southern provinces of Basra, Dhi Qar, Muthanna and Maysan.
The opening of the U.S. consulate is part of a transition from a military-led, security-dominated relationship with Iraq to a civilian-led, broader, more traditional bilateral relationship. Washington plans to open a second consulate in Erbil, the capital of the Kurdish region in northern Iraq.
The consulates replace provincial reconstruction teams that have worked in tandem with the U.S. military in Iraq and are touted as a commitment to freedom and democracy shared by Americans and Iraqis.
"We pledge our continued support to the Iraqi people in establishing a sovereign, stable, self-reliant country," said Jeffrey Feltman, the assistant secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, who attended the opening ceremony.
(Sources: CNN, US State Department)