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DOHA: A long-planned 40-km causeway linking Qatar, set to host soccer's 2022 World Cup, and Bahrain will be built and the cost may need to be lowered, Bahrain's Foreign Minister said.

"It is a must for both countries, even without the World Cup," Shaikh Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa said yesterday, without giving a time-frame for the project.

"This is one economic market, one economic zone that should be well-connected, and the bridge is an integral part of that ... It is inevitable," he said.

Sources had said in June the project would be delayed due to escalating costs.

Qatar's successful bid to host the World Cup may have provided new momentum. The bridge would help Qatar manage heavy traffic during the World Cup as Bahrain could absorb some of the tourist inflow in its hotels.

Qatar plans to spend more than $50 billion (BD18.9bn) on infrastructure, including roads, commercial projects and airports ahead of the World Cup.

Shaikh Khalid said pricing for the project, which will be split 50-50, would need to be reviewed, as the initial cost was set before the global economic crisis. "The question is when, and at what cost ... It was initially priced at $3bn (BD1.1bn), but we are trying to bring it down."

A joint Bahrain-Qatar committee will meet next month, and progress will be discussed then, he said.

The causeway linking the world's top liquefied natural gas exporter Qatar to Bahrain would play a key role in improving infrastructure connections between GCC members.

The project, first announced in 2001, was delayed in 2008 to change it to include trains, and late last year the countries said work would start in the first quarter and be completed by 2015. Contractors for the project include French group Vinci, German company Hochtief, Qatari Diar Real Estate and Consolidated Contractors Company.



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