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Venezuela's Chavez Begins Trip to Russia, Belarus and Iran


Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez arrives in Russia this Wednesday evening for an official visit expected to focus on defense and economic issues.

Mr. Chavez meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday. Diplomats say the talks will include Venezuela's possible purchase of conventional submarines, helicopters and other military equipment. The discussions also are expected to include cooperation on energy and mining.

Mr. Chavez meets with the speaker of the lower house of Russia's parliament Boris Gryzlov before heading to southern Russia Saturday for a tour of a helicopter factory.

The Venezuelan leader, a harsh critic of the United States, is then scheduled to visit Belarus and Iran. Diplomats have said Venezuela may want to buy an air defense system from Belarus.

Mr. Chavez's trip to Russia comes days before Mr. Putin and U.S. President George Bush meet Sunday and Monday at the Bush family's home in the northeastern U.S. state of Maine.

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

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