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    NORTH-SOUTH TRANSPORT CORRIDOR TO BE PUT INTO OPERATION ON AUGUST 1, 2004

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    MOSCOW, APRIL 5 - (RIA NOVOSTI) - The first container train to pioneer the international transport corridor North-South is bound to leave Berlin on August 1, 2004, said Gennady Fadeev, president of the Russian Railways joint-stock company, when meeting Monday Iran's ambassador Golam-Reza Shafeyi. "The second train on this route will be one from Helsinki," he added.

    "The sooner we establish effective railway communication with Iran, the more benefits both countries will enjoy," noted Fadeev.

    He referred to Iran as a strategic partner whose cooperation is being sought by many countries. Kazakhstan, in particular, is considering the construction of a European track to enable transportation of Iranian oil to China across Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, said Fadeev.

    An agreement on laying the North-South corridor was signed on September 12, 2000 by Russia, India and Iran, later joined by Belorussia, Kazakhstan, Oman and Tajikistan.

    The international transportation corridor, viewed by Russia as part of strategic partnership with the Caspian region's countries, also ought to improve and cheapen Russia's links with Persian Gulf, South and South-East Asian countries and to boost transit Euro-Asian shipments along Russian transport ways.

    The corridor's advantage over other routes, including the sea route through the Suez Canal, is in more than halving the distance of transportation between South-East Asia and Europe.

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