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Chinese rail link to Nepal via Tibet

world Updated: Apr 26, 2008 15:12 IST

China will extend its railway link from Tibet to Nepal's border in five years, Nepali officials said on Saturday, bringing the traditionally friendly nations closer and boosting trade and tourism.

The rail link with China could help Nepal reduce its heavy dependence on its giant southern neighbour India for everything from oil to motor parts and medicines.

Ai Ping, director general of China's international department, met Nepali Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala on Friday and told him that the rail link would bolster their diplomatic and trade ties, officials said.

"They discussed the benefits of the project," Basanta Gautam, special secretary in Koirala's office, told Reuters. "The railway link should be complete in five years."

China and Nepal share a more than 1,400 km (870 miles) border. The planned railway project would link Tibetan capital Lhasa with Khasa, a border town near China-Nepal border.

"It will be an extension of the famous railway link between China and Tibet," Gautam said.

The 1,142-km (710-mile) rail link between China and Tibet opened in July 2006. The world's highest, it passes through spectacular icy peaks on the Tibetan highlands, touching altitudes of 5,000 metres (16,400 feet).