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    RUSSIAN AND IRANIAN RAILROADS MAY BECOME PART OF A SINGLE INTERNATIONAL TRANSPORT NETWORK

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    MOSCOW, April 7, 2004. (RIA Novosti) - Russia and Iran share a common view on a strategy of developing of international transport corridors, Gennady Fadeyev, the president of Russian Railways, said after talks in Tehran with Iranian Minister of Roads and Transport Ahmad Khoram and the head of the Iranian Railways, Mohammad Saeid Nejad.

    Mr. Fadeyev's statement was included in a Russian Railways press release.

    "The sides agreed on a common development strategy for organizing international transport corridors for both countries' railroads. The north-south corridor plays a key role here," the press release notes.

    During the talks, Mr. Fadeyev and his Iranian counterparts discussed the possibility of transporting cargo by a Europe-Russia-Iran route and which would eventually end in Madras, India.

    The $177 million project to build a railroad from Astara (on the Azerbaijan-Iran border) to Qazvin (200 kilometers northwest of Tehran) was also discussed.

    According to Mr. Fadeyev, Russian Railways can participate in designing and building the railroad. There is also a proposal to set up an Iran, Azerbaijan and Russia consortium to operate this section of the railroad.

    If this railroad is built and the border-crossing point at Julfa (in the Nakhichevan autonomy of Azerbaijan) is restored the north-south transport corridor will have three high-capacity outlets - a Caspian Sea port, a railroad across Azerbaijan, and a railroad through Armenia.

    Iran displayed interest in cooperating with the Russians in purchasing accessories: wheels, railroad car casting, rails and sleeper cars. The press release says that the issues concerning the delivering of safety systems was also discussed.

    The Russian Railways president and Iran's minister of roads and transport discussed the prospect of setting up a direct, non-stop Moscow-Tehran line. They hope that Azerbaijan, the line will pass through its territory, will support the idea.

    The economic advantages of the north-south transport corridor to transport goods to and from Europe and Asia compared with the sea route via the Suez canal were emphasized at the meeting, the press release notes.

    The cost of transporting cargo from Frankfurt by sea is estimated at $5,670 for a 40-foot container, while transporting it through the north-south corridor will only cost $3,670. The transportation time will also be cut from five days to three, the press release says.

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