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Iran and Belarus plan €100 mln hydro-electric project

Energy officials from Iran and Belarus are in discussions on a €100 million ($137 million) hydro-electric project, the Belapan news service reported Tuesday.

The announcement came during a visit to the former Soviet republic by Said Mohammed Mehdi Shahrahi, a member of the energy committee of the Iranian parliament. “The Iranian side has made concrete proposals, and we are studying them seriously,” said Anatoly Pavlovich, a Belarus government spokesman. “We have suggested the construction of a hydro-electric station different from anything else in Belarus,” said Abdolhamid Ferki, Iranian ambassador to Belarus. “We hope to attract a large number of Iranian companies to the project.”

Belarus is energy poor, importing practically all its natural gas and oil from neighboring Russia, at prices that have more than tripled over the last three years. Belarus’ government has long advanced water-generated electricity as a partial solution to the problem, but efforts to drain swamps and build the dams necessary for the idea have been stymied for lack of funds. Iran also was interested in investing to develop cement production in Belarus, and the production of Belarusian tractors and dump trucks under license in Iran, Pavlovich said. Development of Iranian oil fields by Belarusian technicians also was under consideration, Ferki said.

Trade between Iran and Belarus currently is miniscule at some $50 million annually. Both countries in recent months have increased diplomatic contacts in response to economic and political isolation from European nations and the US. (