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Japanese firms in the Middle East are preparing for a possible attack on Iraq by distributing gas masks to its employees and confirming evacuation routes, officials of the firms said.

Some firms have already evacuated family members of employees. More than 100 Japanese were held hostage in Iraq near military targets during Baghdad’s 1990 invasion of Kuwait, which triggered the Persian Gulf War in January 1991.

According to the Foreign Ministry, about 5,300 Japanese are living in 11 countries in the Middle East.

After the Gulf war started in Iraq, many Japanese firms pulled out of the country. Although such large firms as Mitsui & Co. and Mitsubishi Corp. still have offices in Baghdad, no Japanese workers are there. Only about a dozen Japanese, including those married to Iraqis and U.N. employees, live in the country, the ministry said.

Arabian Oil Co. has dispatched some 110 Japanese employees in total to Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.

The company will decide whether to evacuate family members of employees, employees with jobs not related to oil production, or all employees, depending on the situation, company officials said.

The company has secured gas masks, food and vehicles for evacuation. It plans to transport its employees and their family members to southern Saudi Arabia in an emergency, the officials said.

Meanwhile, Idemitsu Kosan Co., a major oil distributor, said it has 23 Japanese employees in four countries near Iraq.

Eight people, including Idemitsu employees and their family members in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, have been evacuated to Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates. The city is considered to be out of Iraq’s missile range, the company said.

Companies such as Mitsubishi Corp., which has about 40 Japanese employees in 11 countries near Iraq, and Itochu Corp., with 28 employees in eight countries, have already arranged flights for employees.

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