• Kyodo

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The Abe administration is preparing to establish a consulate in northern Iraq in a bid to improve the government’s ability to protect Japanese nationals and counter terrorism through enhanced information gathering.

The office will be set up in Irbil, the largest city and capital of the Kurdistan autonomous region, an official said Sunday.

It will be staffed with Foreign Ministry personnel. Other countries including the United States and Britain already have consulates in Irbil.

The Foreign Ministry has temporarily assigned personnel to Irbil since around last June to monitor extremist activity in the area, the official said on condition of anonymity.

The ministry has judged that an official outpost is needed after the recent hostage crisis in which two Japanese were killed by the Islamic State militant group, the official said, adding it will consult with the Kurdistan Region authorities soon.

Japan plans to increase economic assistance to the Kurdish region, as well. The government decided earlier this month to provide about ¥34 billion in low-interest loans to build a modern sewage system and will continue to help the region improve infrastructure.

Meanwhile, Tokyo is also preparing to introduce defense attaches at Japanese embassies in the Middle East, including in Jordan, to enhance Tokyo’s intelligence-gathering.

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