Iraqis demand $1bn from US for 'damage to Baghdad'

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The Independent Online

The local authorities in Baghdad are demanding that the United States pay $1bn (£619m) in compensation and apologise for the damage caused to the city by blast walls.

The city has filed a lawsuit in an Iraqi court against the US military, a media official said yesterday. In an official statement posted late Wednesday on its website, the local government said that the US forces had marred the "beautiful city".

The blast walls were built across Baghdad to protect important buildings during the years of violence that the followed the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003. The statement from the city authorities said that the walls were "put up on the pretext of security" and damaged the sewage system and sidewalks, caused traffic jams and paralysed business". City officials now want an official apology and $1bn to pay for the damage.

Kamil al-Zaidi, the head of the Baghdad provincial council, said Iraqi security forces should also share responsibility for the miles of concrete barriers that crisscross the capital.

"The Iraqi security bodies, not only the Americans, bear part of the responsibility for putting up these walls," he said.

Mr al-Zaidi added that the concrete barriers had helped save lives and protect government buildings during the waves of deadly bombings that struck Iraq over the years.

The tall grey slabs of concrete have become one of the defining images of a conflict that has lasted nearly eight years. They now encircle nearly every mosque and military facility.