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Iraqi Bridge Work Spurs Hopes of Economic Development

American Forces Press Service

BASRA, Iraq, Feb. 9, 2009 – Provincial government officials and coalition partners laid the first batch of cement for a new bridge crossing the Shatt Al Arab River here Feb. 7.

The new Tannumah Bridge will link downtown Basra with its eastern neighborhood of Tannumah.

"This will open a huge gate into the economy of Basra," said Sayeed Najem Mutarif, the provincial council community reconstruction chairman. "It will help increase trade into Basra and all of Iraq."

In addition to Mutarif, Basra provincial Gov. Mohamad El Waeli and Army Maj. Gen. Andy Salmon, Multinational Division Southeast commander, were on hand for the ceremony, along with various Basra city officials, U.S. military civil affairs representatives, Baghdad government officials, senior officers from Iraqi police and army, local residents and members of the Iraqi media.

"Every time I pass the old bridges, it hurts me to see them in the state they are in," Waeli said. "A country like Iraq with its capabilities deserves more. This bridge provides a great opportunity for everyone here in Basra."

Two dilapidated, single-lane pontoon bridges now cross the river. The new bridge will increase the amount of residential and commercial traffic, boosting the local economy, officials said.

The Iraqi-engineered bridge, which is scheduled to be completed next year, has increased safety features. The Iraqi construction company building it is expected to employ nearly 1,000 people to complete the $11.6 million project.

A section of the bridge has been designed to rise in the middle to permit shipping access to Maqil port, enabling future investment in the area, officials said.

"Life in the future doesn't happen by accident," Salmon said. "It happens because people join together and then decide they are really going to work for the future. That is exactly what is needed for the future of Basra."

(From a Multinational Corps Iraq news release.)

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