AN agreement has been signed to build a 32km rail link from Shalamcheh in Iran to Basra in Iraq. The estimated cost of the project is $US 100-120m with construction expected to take two years.

Mr Rostam Ghasemi, Iranian minister for roads and urban development, says the line is important for passenger transport and the relationship between the two countries. He says a connection to the Mediterranean Sea is another motivation for building the line, pointing out that the line between Iraq and Syria requires reconstruction having been damaged during the conflict.

Ghasemi also confirmed that no dates have yet been agreed for the start of construction although the project manager has been identified.

Each country will have a 50% share in the investment. Ghasemi says the private sector in Iran has already confirmed interest in investing in the project.

The first part of the line to be constructed will be a bridge in Iraq and the land has already been handed over ready for construction. Before construction of the line itself can be begin investigations into the land must be undertaken including the removal of landmines. Once that is complete, the Iraqi side of the line will be constructed by Iranian engineers.

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