Russia is defending its plans to sell Venezuela assault rifles and helicopters.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov dismissed concerns expressed by the United States that the guns and aircraft could fall into the hands of leftist rebels in Colombia.  Mr. Lavrov said the arms deal is a bilateral issue in line with international law.

U.S. officials fear Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who has strained relations with Washington, could export small arms to rebel movements, including rebel groups in neighboring Colombia.  A State Department spokesman says the United States has raised the issue with Russia on several occasions.  

Earlier this week, Venezuelan Vice President Jose Rangel said his country is buying the weapons to strengthen its national security and that the purchase should not concern Washington.

Some information for this report provided by Reuters, AP.