• Kyodo News

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Japanese companies said Wednesday they are taking steps to ensure the safety of their workers posted in Libya, where the authoritarian government of Moammar Gadhafi has mobilized armed forces to gun down antigovernment demonstrators.

Some firms say they have instructed workers in Libya to flee to neighboring countries but have had difficulty contacting them because phone lines are being disrupted.

Eighteen Japanese companies, including oil firms and trading houses, have offices in the oil-rich nation and about 100 Japanese reside there, according to the Foreign Ministry in Tokyo.

JX Nippon Oil & Gas Exploration Corp. told its worker and his wife Monday to leave Libya. Overseas flights from the country were booked for them but it is not clear if they have actually taken the flights, the company said.

“Phone calls from Tokyo do not get through and we get calls from Libya only from time to time. We have also heard that the local airport has gone out of operation,” said a public relations officer with the oil firm.

Mitsui & Co. has one Japanese employee at its office in Libya. “We are trying to evacuate the worker as soon as possible but we don’t know when that will happen because the situation is quite fluid,” an official with the trading house said.

Itochu Corp., another trading house, said its worker stationed in Tripoli was heading back to the country after a business trip but is now waiting in Dubai. The company has yet to decide whether to have him return to Libya.

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