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Last Updated: Tuesday, 25 July 2006, 00:48 GMT 01:48 UK
Chavez forges ties with Belarus
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is welcomed upon arriving in Belarus
Mr Chavez said he wanted to conclude "a unity pact" in Minsk
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has praised Belarus, calling it "a model social state like the one we are beginning to create".

During a visit to Minsk, he called for a strategic alliance with Belarus to counter "hegemonic" capitalism.

Mr Chavez later met President Alexander Lukashenko, accused in the West of crushing fundamental rights.

Mr Chavez is on a world tour, partly to win support for Venezuela's bid to win a seat on the UN Security Council.

From Belarus, he will travel to Russia, Qatar, Iran, Vietnam and Mali.

He is hoping to sign an arms deal in Moscow worth around $1bn (542m), correspondents say.

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

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

'New friend'

"We see here a model social state like the one we are beginning to create," Mr Chavez said in Belarus' capital Minsk, before his talks with Mr Lukashenko.

"Here, I've got a new friend and together we'll form a team, a go-ahead team," Mr Chavez said.

"We do not want to be deceived or exploited by anyone. We must defend the interests of the individual and not the hegemonic interests of the capitalists, wherever they may be, in Europe or Latin America," he said.

Hugo Chavez and Victor Lukashenko in Minsk
Mr Lukashenko may now visit Venezuela, officials said

Mr Lukashenko returned the praise, saying that the two countries had "many directions for co-operation".

He agreed to pay a reciprocal visit to Mr Chavez's country in the future, Belarusian officials said.

Mr Lukashenko's spokesman earlier said Belarus and Venezuela were "strategic partners".

Both the US and the EU have accused Mr Lukashenko of rigging the Belarus presidential election in March and of closing down independent media. They have imposed travel bans and financial sanctions on Mr Lukashenko and his top aides.


SEE ALSO
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14 May 06 |  Americas
US warns against Chavez 'danger'
17 Feb 06 |  Americas
EU extends sanctions on Belarus
18 May 06 |  Europe
Belarus jails Lukashenko's foes
28 Mar 06 |  Europe

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