Inauguration ceremony of Phase 1 of the Chabahar Port.

Iran inaugurates new Indian Ocean port

Reuters and other foreign media are subject to Iranian restrictions on leaving the office to report, film or take pictures in Tehran.

While inaugurating the plan, Dr Rouhani said: "We are very happy that the first phase of this development plan is being inaugurated in the Week of Unity".

Shahid Beheshti Port will be regarded as a new development stage for the province, Rouhani said, adding that the capacity of the port is 8.5 million tons.

The inauguration of the port will be attended by delegates from 27 countries including India and Afghanistan.

Rouhani said Iran also plans to link the port to the country's railroad network to facilitate transit of goods to neighbouring landlocked Central Asian countries, as well as open a route to eastern and northern Europe through Russian Federation.

India and Iran had signed a bilateral agreement a year ago, in which New Delhi would refurbish one of the berths at Shahid Beheshti port, and reconstruct a 600 meter long container handling facility at the port.

Speaking at the occasion, President Rouhani said that Afghanistan and countries to the north of Iran, including those in Central Asia, will now be linked to the south and the ocean.

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Chabahar also has an worldwide airport and Iran's Navy and Air Force have bases in the city, adding to the ports value.

Ahead of the inauguration, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and her Iranian counterpart Javed Zarif held a meeting on Saturday in Tehran and discussed about the Chabahar port project among other issues.

It said that Zarif had referred to the Shahid Beheshti Port and said it reinforces mutual and regional cooperation between India and Iran.

For India, the investment in Chabahar was important since the port will bolster a trade route for land-locked Central Asian countries that would bypass rival Pakistan.

In the first phase, India will invest about $200 million (approx Rs. 1,346 crore) to develop cargo berths and terminals, while a 500-kilometre railway line will be constructed between Chabahar and Zahedan - the capital city of Iran's Baluchestan province - in the second phase.

India has been closely working with Afghanistan to create alternate and reliable access routes, bypassing Pakistan.

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