Venezuela's Chavez in Moscow for Arms Purchase
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The president of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez is on a world tour. Today in Moscow, he is signing a billion dollar arms deal. Chavez is turning to Russia for weaponry after the United States refused to provide spare parts for Venezuela's fleet of F-16 jets. The Bush administration also moved to prevent arms sales by other countries by blocking export permits for U.S. technology.
NPR's Gregory Feifer reports.
GREGORY FEIFER reporting:
Chavez is in Russia today to sign a deal to buy 30 Sukhoi fighter jets and 30 helicopters. Before leaving Caracas, he thanked Moscow for refusing to bow to pressure from Washington to scrap the deal. Chavez, a self-proclaimed leftist revolutionary, is on a three-day tour of several Russian cities. Today, he also travels to the city of Ivjesk(ph), about 600 miles east of Moscow, and home to the factory that builds the Kalashnikov automatic rifle.
The Venezuelan president, a former paratroop officer, bought 100,000 Kalashnikovs earlier this year, praising them as the best automatic rifles in the world. Yesterday, Chavez was in the city of Volgograd, south of Moscow, where he met with oil company executives to discuss Russian oil development in Venezuela.
Chavez is on his fourth trip to Moscow and has warm relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin, whom he is expected to meet tomorrow. Chavez's Russia visit is part of a trip to several countries to campaign for a seat on the United Nations Security Council. Analysts say the bitter U.S. critic is looking to build an alliance to counter American influence in the world.
Earlier yesterday, Chavez was in the former Soviet republic of Belarus, which Washington calls Europe's last dictatorship. He said Belarus was a model socialist society and praised strongman president Aleksandr Lukashenko. We have created a strategic alliance between our countries, he said. It is absolutely vital to protect our homeland to guard against internal and external threats.
The Venezuelan president is also due to travel to Qatar, Iran, Vietnam and Mali.
Gregory Feifer, NPR News, Moscow. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.