A joint venture between Belarusian vehicle producer Yunison and Iran Khodro Industrial Group has begun assembling Samand cars in Belarus, Alexei Vaganov, the JV's production director said.

This year, the JV, also called Yunison and located at Yunison facilities, is expected to produce 800 cars and increase output to 6,000 in 2007, he told the Prime-Tass news agency.

Samand car production in Belarus is expected to increase to 60,000 cars annually by 2014.

Vaganov also said that initially the joint venture would assemble cars from Iranian CKD kits, adding that Yunison was considering exports to central and eastern Europe, Russia and Ukraine as well as supplying the domestic market.

The Yunison plant was built in 1997. From then until 1999 the plant assembled about 4,000 Ford Escort cars and Transit vans, which were exported to Russia.

Production halted in 2001 after Ford withdrew from the project.