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Tehran's mayor wants to attract foreign capital

TEHRAN, June 8 (AFP) - Tehran's new mayor Morteza Alviri said on Tuesday he wanted to attract private capital, both Iranian and foreign, to tackle the city's twin problems of pollution and traffic.

"We must attract domestic and foreign capital from private sectors for our urban projects," Alviri said in an official ceremony to mark his assumption of office after his appointment last week.

The new mayor made clear that his approach to tackling the city's problems would not be bound by any political considerations.

"Tehran's municipality will lean neither to the left nor to the right and will not belong to any faction," the reformist mayor told government and municipal officials.

Alviri, 51, an economist and electrical engineer, is currently an advisor to President Mohammad Khatami. As head of Iran's Free Trade Zones he is a staunch supporter of liberal economic reforms.

The importance of the capital, home to one in six Iranians, makes the mayor one of the leading figures on the country's political landscape.

Alviri pledged to establish "transparency" in his management of the municipality.

He paid tribute to his predecessor, Gholamhossein Karbaschi, and described the post of Tehran mayor as a "high risk job." Karbaschi, also a moderate, began serving a two-year jail term on corruption and mismanagement charges in May.

A letter from Karbaschi, sent from Tehran's Evin prison, was read out at the ceremony.

Alviri announced that Tehran's debts amounted to 1.000 billion rials (more than 300 million dollars at the official exchange rate).

"Tehran is suffering from severe pollution problems and anarchy in its traffic," the mayor said, adding that he planned to "review the usefulness and the viability of existing development projects".

He said negotiations had started with the World Bank over financing for a big sewage project in the capital.

Tehran, a city of 10 million, hemmed in by mountains, is one of the most polluted cities in the world, and is famous for its monstrous snarl-ups.

Some 75 percent of the pollution is thought to be caused by traffic.

The inauguration ceremony for the new mayor was held in the Baharan House of Culture, in a poor quarter of southern Tehran.

The house was built by Karbaschi as an arts centre to benefit some of the most deprived inhabitants of the city.

The city suffers not only from severe pollution, but also from widespread unemployment and unchecked expansion.


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