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Qatar allowed to turn US embassy in London into upmarket hotel

The US originally sold the building to the Qataris in 2009 but the transfer has been delayed
The American embassy in Grosvenor Square has frequently been the site of protests (AFP)

Qatar has won approval for plans to convert the American embassy building in London's Grosvenor Square into a luxury hotel.

Westminster Council gave permission for Qatari Diar Real Estate to carry out the purchase on Tuesday, seven years afters the US state department originally agreed to sell the building to the Qataris in order to fund a new complex in the Nine Elms regeneration project on the southern banks of the Thames.

Supporters of the 'Stop the war' coalition and 'Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament' demonstrate outside the American Embassy in central London on May 19, 2012 (AFP)

The embassy building has long been the focal point for protests against American foreign policy, including the war in Vietnam during the 1960s - on 17 March 1968, a demonstration of 10,000 people against the war outside the embassy turned violent and led to 200 arrests.

A programme by the ITN documentary series World in Action covered the events:

Work on the new embassy has been delayed and it is now scheduled to open in spring 2017 under the presidency of Donald Trump, rather than Barack Obama as had been planned.

Qatari Diar is part of the Qatari Investment Authority, which also owns numerous other high profile buildings in the British capital, including the former Chelsea Barracks military base in west London, the former athletes’ village in east London and most of Canary Wharf. According to a report released in May, Qatari investors own more than $1bn worth of property in London's upmarket Mayfair district alone.

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