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9 Jan, 2020 11:40

Japanese companies pull staff out of Iran, ban Middle East travel

Japanese companies pull staff out of Iran, ban Middle East travel

Three major Japanese banks have ordered their employees in Iran to leave the country for security reasons, NHK television reported on Thursday.

The order comes amid growing tensions between Washington and Tehran, following the killing of Iran's top general in a US drone strike in Iraq.

According to NHK, the three largest banks in Japan – MUFG Bank, Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation (SMBC), and Mizuho Bank – have ordered staff stationed in Tehran, to leave the Islamic Republic by January 9. The banks have also canceled all business trips to Iran.

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An SMBC spokesman was quoted by Japan Times saying that the employee relocation was "a temporary measure."

Some other Japanese companies have also issued warnings and orders for their staff. Construction machinery maker Komatsu has prohibited travel to Iran and Iraq for the time being. Hitachi Construction Machinery, which has an office in Dubai, banned employees from traveling to the two countries as a general rule. It also discouraged visits to the rest of the Middle East.

Oil refiner Idemitsu Kosan told employees to refrain from business trips to Iran, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Israel. The company has lifted those countries to the second of its three categories for risky destinations.

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Trading houses Mitsui and Mitsubishi told all employees to avoid non-urgent travel to the Middle East. Mitsui also encouraged employees to stay away from US military facilities and embassies in Africa and Asia.

Last Friday, Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani was killed in a US drone attack in Bagdad. In retaliation, Iran launched missiles at two bases housing US troops in Iraq. Tehran defended the strikes as a legitimate act of self-defense. US President Donald Trump said that Washington would respond with more sanctions.

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