Pakistan and Iran discuss creating rail link to Europe

Dec 16, 2002 01:00 AM

A senior Iranian official urged Pakistan to upgrade the rail route between a south-western Pakistan city and an Iranian border town so that by 2004 Pakistan could connect to a 550 km railway link to Europe, Pakistani officials said.
The proposal was discussed by Iran's deputy minister for road and transport, Seyyed Masih Momeni, and Pakistan's top finance adviser, Shaukat Aziz in Islamabad. The talks came a week before the planned visit of Iranian President Mohammad Khatami to Islamabad, a visit focused on boosting economic ties.

Iran's deputy minister said his country was upgrading the Zahidan-Kirman railway section that will stretch into Europe by 2004 and asked Islamabad to build the railway link between Quetta and Zahidan.
"The Iranian Minister said that if Pakistan could upgrade the portion between Zahidan and Quetta, it would create an effective linkage between Pakistan, Iran and Europe to promote trade via railway route," according to the government.

Aziz said Pakistan would look into the economic viability of the project and could move ahead if it benefits the neighbouring countries. He said Pakistan is building a road link between its coastal areas that will extend to Iran. An upcoming deep-sea port project in Gwadar, in the south-western Baluchistan province, can also help improve trade with Iran, Aziz said.
President Khatami’s visit will also focus on the prospects of a $ 3.5 bn natural gas pipeline from Iran to India via Pakistan. The pipeline's future remains locked in the tense ties between India and Pakistan. The talks will also include discussion of ways to reduce the smuggling of petroleum products from Iran to Pakistan and may also move the countries closer to agreeing to a much-delayed $ 1 bn joint oil refinery.

Relations between Pakistan and Iran have improved after the fall of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan last year.
Islamabad's support for the Taliban movement had soured ties with Iran, which was supporting the Northern Alliance -- the group which became a major force in the Afghanistan government after the US-led campaign there brought about the collapse of the Taliban.

Source: Dow Jones
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