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Venezuela plans to buy a lot of Russian weapons
Updated: 2004-11-27 08:52

Venezuela plans to buy large amounts of arms from Russia, President Hugo Chavez said after talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on Friday.

"We are modernising and strengthening our armed forces against any form of aggression. We are talking about deliveries of 100,000 Russian machineguns," Chavez told a news conference.

"We also told the president about our wish to acquire large quantities of anti-tank and anti-aircraft equipment," he added.

Leftist former paratrooper Chavez is hoping Putin will help him diversify Venezuela's arms procurement away from the United States and the European Union. Putin said arms sales to Venezuela had doubled in the past year.

Chavez has reduced Venezuela's military ties with Washington and forged a political alliance with communist Cuba, and says Venezuela needs to beef up security along its 1,400 mile (2,200 km) border with Colombia to stop a war there from spreading.

Colombian military commanders have accused Chavez of collaborating with Colombian Marxist rebels, a charge he has angrily denied.

Russia's arms sector is booming, helping to diversify export income away from natural resources and to shore up respect in its crumbling armed forces.

Under a revival plan approved by Putin in 2001, three major defence firms have been set up and exports have hit post-Soviet records, climbing to $5.4 billion last year, mainly on the strength of fighter jet sales and Southeast Asian demand.

Chavez did not mention warplanes, although Venezuela, the world's No. 5 oil exporter, is evaluating Russian MiG-29 combat aircraft as a possible replacement for its U.S.-made F-16 jets.

Earlier this year Russia came under fire for supplying 12 MiG-29s to Sudan, where the Khartoum government has been accused of using warplanes against its own people in the Darfur region.

Venezuela has already agreed to buy $40 million worth of Russian helicopters, and Chavez said delivery would begin next year. He did not give details of the number or type of aircraft.

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