Venezuela to buy Russian short-range missiles

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The Independent US

Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez said yesterday that his country is buying Russian missiles with a range of 186 miles as part of a series of arms deals with Moscow.

Chavez, who yesterday returned from a ten day-tour of Africa, Asia and Europe that included a visit to Russia, is also negotiating the purchase of 100 T-72 and T-90 tanks from Moscow.

"We signed some military agreements with Russia. Well, soon some little rockets are going to be arriving," he said during a speech to supporters from a balcony at the presidential palace upon his return to Venezuela.

"Do you know how far they reach? 300 kilometers, and they don't fail."

Venezuela is currently embroiled in a diplomatic crisis with neighboring Colombia over a security agreement that will allow US troops access to more Colombian bases to fight drug traffickers and left-wing guerrillas.

Chavez, a fierce critic of US foreign policy, says the US-Colombia plan will increase the risk of war in South America and could be used to launch an attack on Venezuela.

"We are not going to attack anybody, these are just defense tools, because we are going to defend our country from any threat, wherever it may come from," he said.

Last year, the former paratrooper ordered tanks to the border with Colombia in a dispute over a Colombian bombing raid on a FARC guerrilla camp in Ecuadorean territory.

Chavez did not say how many missiles he had ordered or how much they cost. He spent over $4 billion dollars on Russian weapons in recent years after Washington barred him from buying US equipment.

Russian sales to Venezuela include 24 Sukhoi Su-30 fighter jets, dozens of helicopters and 100,000 AK assault rifles.

Moscow has said it will sell Chavez whatever weapons he wants to buy.

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