Chavez says Russian arms only for defense

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez on Thursday denied accusations that purchases of Russian weapons fan up arms race in the region and said they are intended exclusively for defense.

He also recalled that Venezuela began to buy Russian armaments after the United States imposed an arms embargo on Caracas in May under the pretext of insufficient cooperation in the fight against terrorism.

"The purchases are intended exclusively to maintain the defense capability of the army. They are necessary to replace outdated arms," Chavez told a press conference.

He said Kalashnikov rifles are replacing Belgian-made small arms of early ’50s, as under US pressure NATO stopped selling spare parts to them.

Chavez recalled the United States did not allow the Brazilian Embraer Company to sell Tucan and Super Tucan aircraft to Venezuela. Therefore, Caracas bought

Russian Su-30 fighters.

"Russia is supplying armaments and modern technologies to Venezuela without any political conditions and respecting the sovereignty of the country", Chavez said, adding that Russian combat aircraft are superior to US ones.

[Source: Itar-Tass, Caracas, 01Dec06]

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