Gabon's President Omar Bongo tightened the bolt on the first rail of the new Trans-Gabon railway on Sunday (December 30).
GV President Bongo inspecting guard of honour
SV People cheering
SV Bongo walking towards railway
SV Giscard d'Estaing walks towards railway
CU President Bongo tights bolt on first rail
GV People applaud
GV Giscard d'Estaing winding bolt
SV President Bongo presented with railway bolt
GV Guests walking away
Initials BB/1654 TA/AH/BB/1709
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Background: Gabon's President Omar Bongo tightened the bolt on the first rail of the new Trans-Gabon railway on Sunday (December 30).
French finance Minister Giscard d'Estaing was among those at the ceremony which took place at the port of Owendo ten miles (15 Kms) from the capital, Libreville, on the President's birthday.
The railway will run 350 miles (570 Kms) from Owendo to the rich iron ore region of Mekambo in north-east Gabon.
In President Bongo's New Year message to the nation, the previous day, he said the railway was first thought of in 1916. Previous regimes had been unable to start the project, so four years ago he decided to intervene personally to make sure work began. The President said the railway would take several years to build but it would contribute greatly to the country's economic development and the happiness of the Gabonese people.
French State Secretary in the Foreign Ministry M. Jean-Francois Deniau and Gabonese Ministers also attended the ceremony.
The Common Market's European Investment Bank, france, the United States, West Germany and Canada are among the countries and organisations backing the project.