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Venezuela Rejects US Criticism of Arms Deal

Venezuelan Vice President Jose Rangel has dismissed U.S. concerns over his country's plan to buy 100,000 Russian-made rifles. Mr. Rangel said Tuesday Venezuela is buying the rifles to strengthen its national defense, and that the purchase should not concern Washington.

His remarks were in response to recent comments by Roger Noriega, Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, expressing concern that the weapons could wind up in the hands of criminal groups.

Relations between the United States and Venezuela have been strained in recent years. Washington has criticized Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez' populist policies and his country's close relationship with Cuba.

President Chavez has accused the United States of backing attempts to oust him, including a 2002 coup which briefly removed him from power.

Some information for this report provided by AFP and AP.