Four Japanese people intend to remain in Iraq to act as “human shields” even after a military strike is launched, Foreign Ministry officials said Monday.

The four are among 69 Japanese who were still in Iraq as of Monday despite the looming war, the officials said. They are mostly with the United Nations, nongovernmental organizations and news organizations, the officials added.

The ministry is trying to persuade the four peace activists to leave Iraq immediately, telephoning relatives to urge them to get out, the officials said.

It is also trying to dissuade other Japanese planning to go to Iraq to serve as human shields, they said.

Staff of the embassy in Baghdad have already left the country, and the government has been urging other Japanese to leave immediately, the officials said.

As of Monday, some 5,400 Japanese were in Iraq and 10 neighboring countries on business or for other purposes, the officials said.

The ministry is considering advising the Japanese in the neighboring countries to leave.

Of the 10 other countries, the ministry has already issued an evacuation advisory for Kuwait and the Khafji area of Saudi Arabia, and it plans to issue the same advisory for Israel once a military strike against Iraq becomes inevitable, the officials said.

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