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Last Updated: Saturday, 4 June, 2005, 00:04 GMT 01:04 UK
Venezuela to stage mass war games
Venezuelan reservist crawls through mud
Hugo Chavez aims to have a two-million-strong reservist force
Workers at Venezuela's state-run oil company are preparing to take part, along with up to 5,000 troops, in a large-scale military exercise.

The civilian employees are due to be trained in the use of anti-aircraft and anti-tank rocket launchers, army chief Raul Baduel told a press conference.

The operation is aimed at assessing the military training of civilians.

Oil workers have also been involved in repairing military equipment that required maintenance.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chaves recently admitted that the US had refused to provide assistance with technology acquired by Venezuela before his rise to power in 1999, including F-16 aircraft.

But he added that "friends of ours aboard and the knowledge of our professionals" had neutralised the problem.

New weapons

General Baduel said the operation, which is due to take place next Thursday in the central and northern regions of the country, should not "be cause for any concern", according to Spain's EFE news agency.

He added that the simulation would help plan a military reaction "ahead of the possibility that our country might find itself plunged into such a situation".

The exercise will take place at the same time as military manoeuvres in the country's east, and will be followed by another non-conventional war simulation several days later, EFE reported.

Venezuela has said it fears that Washington may be planning to invade its territory, and the US has voiced concern about recent weapons acquisitions by the Venezuela, which has a close relationship to Cuba.

Venezuela has recently bought helicopters and some 100,000 assault rifles from Russia as well as planes and boats from Spain.

An estimated 90,000 reservists have been signed up by the Venezuelan army.




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