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Iraqi and U.S. military spokesmen denied on Saturday U.S. forces were preparing to evacuate hundreds of staff of Lockheed Martin Corp and Sallyport Global from an Iraqi military base where they work as contractors. Four separate military sources, who spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity, said on Friday contractors from the two firms were getting ready to leave Balad military base, which hosts U.S. forces some 80 km (50 miles) north of Baghdad, over “potential security threats”, without saying what those threats might be. Iraqi and U.S. military spokesmen denied there were any such plans, which the sources disclosed at a time of rising regional tension between the United States and Iraq’s neighbour Iran. “There are no plans at this time to evacuate any personnel from Balad … Should there be increased threats to our people, the U.S. Air Force will put measures in place to provide the protections required,” Air Force Colonel Kevin Walker said in a statement. Iraq’s military spokesman said Iraq “protects the safety of our fighters and American advisers and trainers”. Three mortar shells hit the sprawling Balad base last week in an attack that caused no casualties, the military said. No one has claimed responsibility for the attack. That incident was followed by attacks on two other military installations hosting U.S. forces, near Baghdad and in the northern city of Mosul. U.S. energy giant ExxonMobil evacuated at least 21 foreign staff from a site near the southern city of Basra on Wednesday after a…

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