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Several Asian Governments Set for Diplomatic Pullout from Iraq - 2003-02-14

A number of Asian governments are pulling out or preparing to pull diplomatic staff out of their embassies in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad. The measures come as Asian countries brace for a possible U.S. led military invasion of Iraq.

Pakistan, a key U.S, ally, is one the countries scaling back its diplomatic representation in Baghdad. Even though Islamabad has cautioned against going to war to divest Iraq of its weapons of mass destruction, it is preparing for the conflict. Pakistan Foreign Ministry Spokesman Aziz Ahmed Khan said "Pakistan has withdrawn the families, because of the prevailing situation, as well as some non-essential staff from our Embassy in Baghdad. But otherwise our diplomatic officers and staff are all present."

Another close U.S. ally, the Philippines, is taking a wait-and-see approach. The ambassador to Baghdad has been authorized to use her discretion on when or if to close the diplomatic mission. But the government has other concerns, namely the safety of 1.5 million Philippine workers in the Middle East. President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has pledged to do "whatever it takes" to protect them.

Malaysia, a predominantly Muslim country opposed to any military action against Iraq, is also being cautious. The foreign minister Monday ordered the evacuation of all Malaysian diplomats in Iraq and called on some 200 students studying in Baghdad to leave.

Chinese officials, who are strongly advocating a diplomatic solution to the crisis over Iraq, is also scaling back its diplomatic representation. Other Asian countries evacuating non-essential personnel from Baghdad include Thailand and India. Japan and South Korea say their diplomats will operate from Jordan.