Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has announced his intention to recognize Georgia's breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent countries.

Mr. Chavez spoke Thursday as he met with Russian President Dmitri Medvedev outside Moscow.  He said Venezuela will soon open diplomatic relations with the two regions.  

Venezuela joined Russia and Nicaragua as the only countries to have recognized Abkhazian and South Ossetian independence, since last year's Russian-Georgian conflict.  

Georgia's Foreign Ministry called the action an extremely unfriendly step.

In Washington, a senior State Department official said Venezuelan recognition of the two regions would be unfortunate. He stressed U.S. support for Georgia's territorial integrity and said other countries also hold the same view.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who also met Mr. Chavez, praised growing Russian-Venezuelan ties.

The countries signed a number of agreements including one on Russian arms sales to Venezuela.  

Mr. Chavez is in Moscow on his eighth visit since 2001.

He arrived there Wednesday from Belarus, where he also signed a series of bilateral agreements.

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