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Venezuela's Chavez to Kick Off Two-Week, Seven-Country Tour

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is embarking on a two-week tour that will take him to seven countries.

Mr. Chavez is expected to first visit Brazil before continuing on to Argentina for a summit Friday of the South American trade bloc, Mercosur.

From South America, the Venezuelan president travels to Belarus before visiting Russia. In Moscow, he is expected to sign a military agreement allowing Caracas to purchase Russian Sukhoi Su-30 fighter planes and small arms. Mr. Chavez is also seeking rights to build a manufacturing plant for Kalashnikov assault rifles in Venezuela.

During the tour, Mr. Chavez will also visit Qatar, Iran and Vietnam.

Meanwhile, Venezuelan officials say Foreign Minister Ali Rodriguez has been hospitalized with heart problems, and will not accompany Mr. Chavez on the trip.

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