French engineering giant Alstom has signed a preliminary deal to build a high-speed rail line linking Basra and Baghdad in Iraq.
An Alstom spokesman confirmed to the BBC it had signed a "memorandum of understanding" with Iraqi officials as a first step in the project.
The line would also connect with the cities of Karbala and Najaf.
The company will hold exclusive talks with Iraqi officials for 12 months to try to strike a final agreement.
Basra is approximately 450km (280 miles) south-east of Baghdad and the proposed line would involve a 650km network, Alstom says. The line would handle speeds of up to 250km/h (155 mph).
French junior transport minister Thierry Mariani, who announced the move at the Paris International Airshow on Friday, said he would travel to Iraq in September or October to discuss the possible deal.
No financial details for the proposed project are being made available, the Alstom spokesman said.
Alstom recently signed another preliminary deal to build an elevated rail line in Baghdad.