TEHRAN - Iranian and Russian companies are to kick off construction works for a jointly-financed power plant project in southern Iran next week, according to the Iranian Energy Minister Reza Ardakanian after a visit to Russia.
Ardakanian said that works on Sirik Power Plant, a major electricity station on the Persian Gulf coast, would start on June 10 in a ceremony attended by Iranian and Russian officials in the port city with the same name.
That comes more than three months after the Russian government issued banking guarantees for a loan of $1.2 billion that will be used for construction of the project.
The funding is part of a wider package of loans worth $5 billion that will be used by Iran for several key infrastructure projects in the country.
Speaking to reporters following a two-day trip to Russia, Ardakanian said that he had reached agreements with Russian authorities on how to earmark the rest of the Russian finances to two railroad projects in Iran.
He said a letter of credit for the loan on Sirik Power Plant had been opened, saying everything was ready to kick off construction works for the project.
The Iranian minister described the power plant as a key component of Iran’s plans to develop infrastructure at the southeastern coasts of the Persian Gulf.
He said the project will be able to mazut as its fuel, allowing Iran to save some 3 billion cubic meters of natural gas each year.
The Sirik Power Plant is planned to be constructed in four units with a total electricity generation capacity of 1.4 gigawatts.
Russia’s Power Machines, a major company focused on thermal power plant construction, has been awarded to build the plant in the next five years through partnerships with local Iranian energy and construction firms.
Russia, Iran to Sign Visa Waiver Deal
On Sunday, Iranian Ambassador to Russia Kazem Jalali wrote in a statement posted on his Facebook page, Minister of Cultural Heritage, Tourism and Handicrafts Ali Asghar Mounesan arrived in Moscow to sign an agreement on lifting visa requirements for tourist groups.
The visa deal aims to facilitate group visas for tourists of both countries traveling through accredited travel agencies.
Jalali wrote that travel agents will lodge visa applications for tour groups to receive one single visa for the visit. He expressed hope that by easing the visa process, bilateral tourist exchanges will gain momentum and form a strong foundation for further boosting ties between Iran and Russia.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said last year that the visa waiver deal for Iranian tour groups will take effect “after the Russian tourist agency determines an Iranian partner to regulate carrying out the agreement.”
Based on a 2017 agreement between Russia and Iran, tour groups of 5 to 50 people traveling to eastern Russia from Iran, or vice versa, were to be granted free two-week visas.
The head of Iran’s Tour Operators Association, Ibrahim Pourfaraj, said last year that a large majority of potential Russian tourists were unaware of the wide array of tourist attractions scattered across Iran.
“The fact is that Iran’s political and economic relations with Russia are considered good, but this has nothing to do with attracting tourists because the Russian tourists need to make up their minds to come to Iran for tourism,” he said.
Iran is full of outstanding historical attractions -- some dating back more than 7000 years -- numerous museums, magnificent ancient capitals, in addition to spectacular grand mosques, shrines, bazaars and gardens.
The country also features many other natural and man-made attractions, including beaches, parks, mountain and jungle resorts, restaurants and affordable shopping centers.