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The government Friday advised Japanese nationals in Baghdad and the rest of Iraq to leave the country immediately, Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi said.

“We issued an evacuation advisory for Baghdad in addition to the evacuation advisory issued earlier for other areas of Iraq, as it is taking time for people to leave the country at its borders,” Kawaguchi said during a news conference.

The latest travel advisory upgrades the Foreign Ministry’s danger-level rating for Baghdad to the highest level of strongly advising evacuation. On Jan. 23, the ministry issued an advisory recommending that Japanese leave Baghdad but it had retained the second-highest warning level, recommending postponing visits to the city.

According to the ministry, there were 36 Japanese nationals in Iraq as of Friday, including 29 in Baghdad.

“Depending on how the situation progresses, it is expected that it will become even more difficult to leave the country, such as with the suspension of commercial flights and airport closures,” the ministry said.

It added that the Japanese staff at the embassy in Baghdad may also have to withdraw.

The Foreign Ministry also urged Japanese to “postpone traveling, for whatever reason, to Iraq until the situation stabilizes.”

On Monday, the ministry issued a travel advisory to postpone visits to Kuwait and the Khafji area of Saudi Arabia, as well as Israel, including the West Bank and Gaza, given the increasingly tense situation centering on Iraq. It also urged people already at those locations on nonessential visits to evacuate.

The Khafji area of Saudi Arabia is geographically close to Iraq.

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