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Last Updated: Thursday, 27 July 2006, 17:05 GMT 18:05 UK
Chavez hails Russian arms deals
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez in Moscow
President Putin (left) backed Venezuela's UN bid
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has again thanked Russia for supplying his country with weapons, despite objections from the United States.

Speaking in Moscow, Mr Chavez said there had been "extraordinary progress" in military ties between the two sides.

Russian officials say Moscow's arms sales to Venezuela are now worth more than $3bn (1.6bn), including a new deal for fighter jets and helicopters.

Washington has warned that the move could destabilise South America.

In Moscow, Mr Chavez also received support for Venezuela's bid to get a seat on the UN Security Council.

'Blockade over'

"There has been extraordinary progress in our military technological co-operation. I want to thank President [Vladimir] Putin for his strong support," Mr Chavez said after the talks with the Russian leader.

Mr Chavez said the weaponry was badly needed by his country after Washington had banned US manufacturers from entering such deals with Caracas.

"We would like to thank you for freeing us from a blockade," he said.

The head of Russia's arms export agency, Sergei Chemezov, said that the arms deals between the two countries were worth more than $3bn over the past 18 months.

Mr Chemezov said this included the deal to deliver to Venezuela 24 Russian Su-30 fighter jets and 53 helicopters.

Venezuela has already ordered 100,000 AK-103s and wants to set up factories to produce Kalashnikovs under licence.

On Wednesday, Mr Chavez said he was not "an aggressor" and the arms deals with Russia did not mean he was going to attack anyone.

"It's simply that our army's weapons are already old and worn out and we want to exchange them for newer more reliable ones," he said.

'Lobbying tour'

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

HAVE YOUR SAY
The arms trade is despicable at the best of times
Keith Nolan, Ireland

In Moscow, President Putin said he would support Venezuela's attempts to join the UN Security Council.

"We will support Venezuela's candidature to become a non-permanent member of the Security Council... We are for a multi-polar world," Mr Putin said.

Mr Chavez arrived to Russia from Belarus, where he signed a series of co-operation agreements.

After Moscow, he will visit Qatar, Iran, Vietnam and Mali.




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