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Venezuela's Chavez Considering Submarine Purchase During Moscow Visit

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez says he could buy a fleet of Russian submarines when he meets with President Vladimir Putin later this month in Moscow.

President Chavez said in a televised speech Thursday he is not certain whether Venezuela will buy the submarines. But he said no one should be alarmed if the sale goes through.

Russia's "Kommersant" newspaper reported last week that Moscow is planning to sell up to nine submarines to Venezuela and that the deal would be signed during Mr. Chavez's trip.

In recent years, Venezuela has purchased 100,000 Kalashnikov rifles from Russia, along with military helicopters and Sukhoi fighter jets. Venezuela has said it is planning to build a Kalashnikov rifle and ammunition factory.

Last year, the United States banned arms sales to the Venezuelan government, citing its links to Iran and Cuba.

The U.S. says arms sales to Venezuela do not help stability in South America.

Venezuela's president is a fierce critic of the Bush administration and says it supported the coup against him in 2002. U.S. officials have denied the charge.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.