Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Chavez in Russia for arms deals

Chavez in Russia for arms deals

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is visiting Russia, where he is expected to sign deals to buy new fighter jets and helicopters.

He will visit Volgograd - formerly Stalingrad - on Tuesday, and later the Urals town of Izhevsk, where Kalashnikov assault rifles are made.

The US has tried to persuade Russia not to supply weapons to Venezuela.

Mr Chavez is visiting several countries, lobbying for a Venezuelan seat on the UN Security Council.

On Monday he signed a series of co-operation agreements with President Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus, covering topics such as technology, energy and agriculture.

Both Mr Lukashenko and Mr Chavez are fierce critics of US policy.

In Belarus they exchanged compliments about each other's strong leadership styles.

"I'm impressed by your knowledge of military affairs," Mr Lukashenko told Mr Chavez as they toured an army museum.

Strategic alliance

The US has labelled Mr Lukashenko "Europe's last dictator".

Mr Chavez said the agreements were just the start of a Belarus-Venezuela strategic alliance.

He will later visit Qatar, Iran, Vietnam and Mali.

The planned arms deal with Russia is worth around $1bn (£542m), correspondents say.

The US has voiced concerns about it, having banned such deals with Caracas for US manufacturers.

Russia plans to deliver 30 Sukhoi Su-30 fighter jets and 30 helicopters to Venezuela.

Venezuela also plans to buy 100,000 Russian-made AK-103 assault rifles and wants to set up factories on its soil to produce Kalashnikovs under licence.

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