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06-29-07, 10:44 AM #1jetdawggGuest Free Member
Chavez in Russia for Possible Weapons Deal
Fedynsky report - Download 554k
By Peter Fedynsky
28 June 2007
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Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is in Moscow for discussions with Russian President Vladimir Putin about a possible arms deal and expanded economic ties between the two countries. VOA Correspondent Peter Fedynsky reports from the Russian capital.
Hugo Chavez speaks at opening of Venezuela's cultural center in Moscow, 28 June 2007
President Chavez is expected to meet with his Russian counterpart Thursday evening in the Kremlin. Speaking during the day at the opening of a Latin American cultural center in Moscow, the Venezuelan leader said he does not rule out the development of nuclear energy in his country.
In a swipe at the United States, Mr. Chavez also said American troops should leave Iraq, and that Iran has a right to nuclear technology.
Mr. Chavez says that Iran has the right to a peaceful atomic energy industry, because it is a sovereign state.
His Moscow agenda includes the possible purchase of Russian diesel-electric submarines, armed with missiles. Mr. Chavez is also interested in buying the Russian TOR-1 missile defense system.
Last year, Mr. Chavez signed a deal with the Kremlin to purchase $3 billion worth of weapons, including helicopters, fighter planes and small arms.
But Mr. Chavez said weapons are not the aim of his visit.
He says his priorities are culture, ideas and cooperation in energy as well as the military.
The two countries, both major exporters of energy, are discussing expanded commerce. Russian state television says bilateral trade, last year, amounted to only $90 million.
On Saturday, the Venezuelan leader will be President Putin's guest at a horse race in the southern city of Rostov-on-Don. However, despite signs of closer relations, Russian lawmakers voted against allowing Mr. Chavez to address them in a full session of the country's lower house of Parliament. The move is interpreted here as a way to avoid further aggravating the already chilly Russian relationship with the United States. The U.S. administration considers the Venezuelan leader a destabilizing voice in Latin America.
Washington is also concerned about his international arms purchases.
Mr. Chavez has plans for more weapons deals with neighboring Belarus, where he flies after his visit to Russia. He then continues to Iran.
The Venezuelan's visit to Russia comes on the eve of President Putin's visit this weekend with President Bush at the Bush family home in Kennebunkport, Maine. The two leaders are expected to discuss ways of overcoming the recent chill in relations.
06-30-07, 10:47 AM #2jetdawggGuest Free Member
Chávez hints at nuclear future for Venezuela
Luke Harding in Moscow
Friday June 29, 2007
President Hugo Chávez yesterday hinted that Venezuela could try to become a nuclear power, during a visit to Russia apparently timed to antagonise the White House.
Mr Chávez defended Iran's right to pursue a nuclear programme and said it might be a good idea if Venezuela eventually did the same thing. Speaking before an audience of communists and other elements hostile to America, Mr Chávez said: "Iran has a right to have a peaceful atomic energy industry, as it is a sovereign country.
"The Brazilian president has declared his atomic energy initiatives, and Brazil has a right to do that as well. Who knows, maybe Venezuela will ultimately follow suit." Mr Chávez said he wanted a "multi-polar world in which "real freedom" was possible as opposed to "American freedom", which he characterised as the right to "threaten other nations and destroy cities".
The Venezuelan leader is on a trip that also includes two other US antagonists, Belarus and Iran. His visit to Moscow comes hours before a meeting in the US between Vladimir Putin and George Bush. The two are holding informal talks on Sunday and Monday at the Bush family estate in Kennebunkport, Maine, with deep divisions over the US's proposed missile shield in central Europe, the future of Kosovo and US concerns over Russia's resurgent authoritarianism under Mr Putin.
Kremlin officials yesterday said it was a coincidence that Mr Putin was holding talks with Mr Chávez tomorrow and Mr Bush on Sunday.
But the newspaper Vedomosti suggested the visits were designed to demonstrate Russia's independence. Others suggested it was Mr Chávez who was making the running. "The timing wasn't initiated by Russia," said Viktor Semyonov, an economist at Moscow's Institute of Latin American Studies. "It all comes from Chávez.
"It's more about money than politics; Chávez is supporting Russia's rapidly increasing economic presence in Venezuela."
During his three-day visit to Russia, Mr Chávez is expected to buy more military hardware, including as many as five submarines. He will also tour a helicopter factory and hold talks with Mr Putin tomorrow in Rostov-on-Don.
Last year Mr Chávez spent $3bn (£1.5bn) on Russian arms. But yesterday he said: "We don't want war. We want peace. There were rumours we came here to buy weapons. This is not the priority of my visit ... The priority is cultural interaction and the exchange of ideas."
But he also boasted of Venezuela's Russian Sukhoi jets: "When they appeared in the sky over Caracas during a parade on independence day two years ago, then we broke the fetters of dependence on the US."
In Belarus, Mr Chávez may also discuss a new air defence system, after saying this week that Venezuela's current system was insufficient. He will then go to Tehran for talks aimed at further deepening ties with Iran.
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