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Putin:  Russia May Launch Nuclear Cooperation With Venezuela

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin says he is ready to consider helping Venezuela develop a nuclear energy program.

Mr. Putin made the comment Thursday as he met with visiting Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez outside Moscow. Earlier, the Kremlin said it would lend Venezuela $1 billion so the South American country can buy Russian military hardware.

Mr. Chavez is making his second trip to Russia in two months. The visit comes as a Russian naval squadron sails to Venezuela for joint military exercises. Earlier this month, two Venezuelan bombers conducted air patrol flights over neutral waters in the Caribbean.

Venezuela's efforts to forge closer ties with Russia come as both countries criticize U.S. foreign policy.

Separately, Mr. Chavez is seeking to boost ties with China through increased oil sales to reduce his country's dependence on the United States.

The Venezuelan leader Thursday said his country aims to increase oil exports to China to one million barrels a day within four years. Venezuela currently sends China more than 300,000 barrels of crude oil a day to China.

Mr. Chavez, however, said his plan to increase oil shipments to China does not mean a cut in supplies to the United States. Before flying to Russia, President Chavez visited China to meet with President Hu Jintao and sign deals on energy cooperation.

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