Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez says he has signed an arms deal with Russia for short range missiles.
The missiles have a range of 300 kilometers. The weapons are a part of
a series of arms deals with Moscow. Mr. Chavez made the announcement on
Friday after returning from a ten-day tour of Africa, Asia and Europe
and he insists the weapons are for defense only.
Mr. Chavez says the rockets will arrive in Venezuela soon and he says his country is not going to attack anybody with them. He says the weapons will help defend his country from any threat no matter where it comes from. Venezuela is currently involved in a dispute with neighboring Colombia over that country's agreement with the U.S. to allow American troops access to seven Colombia bases for anti-drug operations.
Moscow says it is willing to sell Venezuela whatever weapons it is willing to buy. Venezuela is currently negotiating the purchase of 100 T-72 and T-90 tanks from Russia.
Russia has already sold the country 24 fighter jets, dozens of helicopters and assault rifles. This after the United States barred the South American country from buying U.S. equipment. In recent years, Venezuela has spent more than $4 billion on Russian weapons.
In addition to the arms deals, President Chavez recently acknowledged the independence of the Russian-supported breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. The U.S. and the European Union consider the areas part of Georgia and have repeatedly asked Russia to respect Georgia's territorial integrity. Nicaragua is the only other country, besides Russia, that recognizes the regions.