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Dubai delays debut of tallest tower to early 2010

Visitors will have to wait until early next year for the opening of the world's tallest building in Dubai.

The media office of the city-state's ruler said Wednesday the hulking Burj Dubai will now debut on Jan. 4, a month later than expected. The new opening date is timed to coincide with the fourth anniversary of Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum's appointment as ruler of Dubai.

Excavation work on the silvery Burj Dubai, Arabic for "Dubai Tower," began more than five years ago. It has continued rapidly since.

By January 2007, some 3,000 laborers — mostly imported from India — had completed 100 stories on the building, at times adding a new floor almost every three days.

The tower is the centerpiece of a 500-acre residential and commercial development in central Dubai. It is flanked by dozens of smaller brand-new skyscrapers and the Middle East's largest shopping mall.

The tower reached 1,680 feet (512 meters) in the summer of 2007, surpassing Taiwan's Taipei 101 — the previous world's tallest.

The official opening date has become a moving target, however, as state-backed developer Emaar Properties races to put the finishing touches on its most ambitious project.

Installation of the aluminum and glass panels that cover the colossal tower's outside was completed only last month. The builder says the more than 1 million square feet (92,903 square meters) of glass panels used on the building's facade could cover 14 soccer fields.

Emaar has repeatedly said it planned to open the building this year.

Less than a month ago, Chairman Mohamed Alabbar told CNN he hoped to have the Burj Dubai ready to open by the Emirates national day on Dec. 2.

The skyscraper stands more than 2,600 feet (800 meters) tall. Emaar has yet to confirm is final height.

Emporis, a German company that tracks international building projects, lists the building's height as 818 meters, or about 2,684 feet.

Chicago's Willis Tower — the U.S. record holder formerly known as the Sears Tower — stands 1,729 feet (527 meters) from street level to the tip of its tallest antenna, according to the building's management company.