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Iran eyes influx of fans for World Cup in nearby Qatar

Tehran (AFP) – Iran is hoping to host visitors flocking to nearby Qatar for the 2022 World Cup finals, with officials boosting flights and readying hotels for an expected influx of football fans.

“The Qataris are very interested in using Iran’s infrastructure in the 2022 World Cup,” Transport Minister Rostam Ghassemi told reporters on Tuesday.

“Iran must use all the capabilities it has to benefit from this event,” he added, following a two-day visit by his Qatari counterpart.

On Sunday and Monday, Qatari Transport Minister Jassim bin Saif al-Sulaiti visited Iran’s Kish island — 270 kilometres (168 miles) northeast of Doha — and signed six cooperation agreements, Iran’s official IRNA news agency reported.

Kish, a 92 square kilometre (35 square mile) resort island in the Gulf with white sand beaches, is a 40-minute flight or six-hour boat ride from Doha.

Key among the agreements was a deal to increase flights between the countries, rising from 72 at present to potentially as many as 200 a day, said Mohammad Mohammadi, the head of Iran’s Civil Aviation Organisation.

The Qatari transport minister visited the passenger terminal of Kish International Airport, which is under construction, as well as the commercial and passenger port, IRNA added.

“Iran’s contribution to the World Cup will be in the areas of air and sea transport and accommodation of foreign and Iranian passengers,” Ghassemi said.

“We also plan to offer foreign fans and tourists during their stay in Iran the opportunity to visit the country’s tourist gems.”

To encourage travel, Iran may waive visas for inbound visitors from Qatar.

“The ministry of foreign affairs could agree to waive visas for travel from Qatar for two months during the World Cup, which ends on December 18,” said Leila Azhdari, from Iran’s tourism ministry.

Visitors could apply for free single or multi-entry passes for 20 days during those two months.

In January, Iran qualified for the World Cup finals, the third in a row and their sixth overall. Iran, who have never advanced beyond the group stage, will face arch foe the United States and England in Group B.  

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