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Work begins on Iraq-Iran rail link

Iraq's prime minister on Saturday inaugurated construction work on what is slated to become the first railway line connecting the country to neighbouring Iran.

The "Basra-Chalamja connection project" will link the major port city of Basra in southern Iraq to Iran's vast railway network through the Chalamja border crossing. It is estimated that the project will take "between 18 and 24 months".

The goal is to be able to transport "travellers from the Islamic Republic of Iran and Central Asian countries" to Shiite holy cities, Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani said in a speech. He noted that the project had been under discussion for years before an agreement was reached in 2021. Half of the 32 kilometres (20 miles) of rail track planned will be on the Iran side of the border, its official IRNA news agency said.

Sudani's government has been working on forging a growing number of regional partnerships. In May, Baghdad unveiled a $17-billion project known as the "Route of Development" for a road and railway stretching 1, 200 kilometres (745 miles) from Iraq's northern border with Turkey to the Gulf in the south.

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