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Iran signs deal to help rebuild Afghan airports, train pilots

Iran has signed an agreement to help rebuild airports in the Balkh and Herat provinces as well as train Afghan pilots, the state news agency Bakhtar cited the country's tourism minister as saying, IRNA reported from Kabul.

The agreement was signed between Civil Aviation and Tourism Minister, Mir Wais Saddiq, and Iranian Transport Minister Ahmad Khorram during the former's visit to Tehran recently, it added.

The two sides also agreed to increase flights between Iran and Afghanistan by Afghan airlines Aryana and Iran's Asseman and Mahan.

The airlines currently operate on a schedule of five flights per week on the Kabul-Tehran, Kabul-Herat-Mashhad, Herat-Mashhad and Mashhad-Herat routes.

According to the new agreement, the two countries will establish seven other flights between them, Bakhtar said. Meanwhile, new flights will start operating between Afghan cities and Zahedan in southeast Iran as well as other Iranian cities.

Most of airports in Afghanistan have been damaged during years of fighting in that war-ravaged country and badly need reparation.

Saddiq said in Tehran last month that a foreign entity had signed a one-billion-dollar deal to reconstruct Afghanistan's airports.

Iran has been involved in several road construction projects in western Afghan provinces since the victory of President Hamid Karzai.

In January, Iran and India signed a joint agreement with Afghanistan to build a transit route to connect Milak in Iran's southeast to Zaranj inside Afghanistan. It is to be taken up by India to build a 210 km road to connect Zaranj to Delaram.

The Zabol-Zaranj-Delaram route will connect Iran's Sistan and Baluchestan province to Nimruz, Farah, Helmand and Kandahar provinces in Afghanistan.

The route has many advantages, one of which is that it shortens the distance from Iran to the southern provinces of Afghanistan by 800 km.

... Payvand News - 5/13/03 ... --

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